Melanie Bennett is looking to cultivate a larger volunteer base to help the Shuswap Community Teaching Garden continue to grow.
Nestled among the residences and pastoral views along 30th Street NE in Salmon Arm, for five years the teaching garden has offered a place for volunteers to learn and grow as gardeners, while addressing local food security issues with some of the food grown being donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.
As with gardening itself, keeping the teaching garden going requires work and commitment, and Bennett, who oversees the garden with the Shuswap Food Action Network, is worried the current base of dedicated volunteers who keep it going aren’t enough to sustain the project.
“In order to have programming like this, to be able to do different things, to be able to have different kinds of events, you do need people to invest a little,” said Bennett. “It’s not sustainable if it’s just too difficult, and in this case, being volunteer driven, even with the Food Action Society… we can’t do much because we just don’t have enough people onboard.”
Bennett recognizes other groups and organizations that rely on a vibrant volunteer base are facing similar challenges. With the teaching garden, though, she explained while there is no time commitment to volunteering, there are various ways to volunteer.
“They might volunteer their knowledge, their contacts, it could be they could volunteer their money – there’s lots of ways to volunteer,” said Bennett. “Maybe you know of a grant opportunity… maybe you have extra garden stakes – it could be things too.”
In addition to volunteers, Bennett is also looking for more community buy-in, and would like to see different people and groups make use of the garden. For example, Gratitude Hot Yoga has been using the teaching garden for outdoor classes.
“We want people to take sort of a sense of ownership of it, ” said Bennnett. “There’s an openness to trying different things, an openness to allowing people to use the space.?
In addition, Bennett would like to grow the education piece, suggesting the garden could host guest speakers who could help get people engaged in trying different techniques and learning different ways of doing things in the garden.
Without that buy-in, without that expanded volunteer base, Bennett is uncertain about the garden’s future.
“If we cannot get enough people ever going there, then why are we going to keep struggling?” said Bennett. “And that would be a real waste because this is its fifth year, it’s a lovely place, it’s a really nice garden, it has all the irrigation, it has lovely soil. So it would be a real shame to see it not keep going.”