Article by Stuart Peddle, Photos by Eric Wynn

A Halifax community garden was a beehive of activity Saturday as volunteers bustled about, preparing to move the Common Roots Urban Farm from the area next to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre Infirmary site.

The garden must relocate to make way for hospital expansion. It is going to move to a site at the bottom of Bayers Road, in a green area across the street from the Bayers Road Centre.

Sara Burgess, the garden’s co-ordinator, took a short break from breaking down plot boxes and sorting bricks, wire and framing materials to talk about the move.

“We’ve just got a big party to get everyone who’s been involved in the farm or who is interested in being involved in the farm to get together to start sorting through all of the things that we’ve acquired over the last seven years,” she said. “What we’re giving away, what we’re taking to the new site and what’s now rotten. Things wear out after seven years.”

The urban farm’s new parent organization Metro Works is located in the Bayers Road Centre, so it’s convenient to be close to them, she said.

It will be a bit of time before the new spot is ready, though.

“We’re not starting on the prep work there yet,” Burgess said. “There’s a lot of work to be done here and the soil is wet. The ground is wet so being able to get vehicles on both sites and co-ordinating those things, we’re taking some time to figure that out.”

She said about a third of the users who had plots at the current garden will continue on at the new spot and getting people from the neighbourhood involved is also important.

“We had a meeting with the neighbours a couple of weeks ago and it was a really great meeting, just talking about how we can work together to really build something for their community and I think we all left pretty excited about working together going forward, so that was really great.”

It’s also close Fairview’s immigrant community and a lot of newcomers who work with the garden live there.

“That is one of the reasons why that site was attractive to us, because we wanted to be able to continue to engage some of the people who had been really engaged for several years,” Burgess said. “And then there are the new community members who we have yet to get to know and learn from. And we’re right across from the ISANS garden and we work quite a bit with the ISANS garden so that will be really nice for partnering more closely.”

Burgess said the garden’s team has a vision of having more gardens throughout the HRM in the future.

Akanksha Husain, who also goes by her nickname, Ruby, was one of the volunteers diligently taking up worn lumber from the sides of planter boxes.

“I like to work here in this community,” she said. “The people are very nice and very supportive.”

She’s keen to continue participating at the Bayers Road location or any other spot around Halifax. She knows what she wants to grow.

“Tomato and onions — anything — because I did planting and farming in my village in India, so I know a little about this,” Husain said.

Barb Hopkin was plot co-ordinator last year but will not continue in the role. She’s of mixed emotions as much will be left behind in the move to the smaller site but she stressed the importance of the garden.

“I think it’s a really important community project and I don’t think there’s another community project like this in the city,” Hopkin said. “It needs to be supported. I think it brings together all of our community members, not just one. It brings together people who are food insecure, people who live in an apartment and just want somewhere to grow, it brings together our immigrant society, new Canadians, and so I think in that way, it’s a really beautiful community project.”

Originally appeared in the Chronicle Herald, April 22, 2019