A local community garden has come back to life after a devastating hailstorm earlier this summer, and Sheldon and Candy Dyck have been able to provide fresh produce to many families in the southeast.
Dyck says after the storm on July 13, wiped out parts of their garden, they spent quite a bit of time scooping up hail from around young plants at the Scatters Homestead Community Garden east of Kleefeld. Then she says, it took several weeks before the plants started showing signs of growth again.
“I was quite surprised how slow it actually went. It felt like the hail had put the plants into hibernation, and so I would say that we only really started seeing a big difference probably at the beginning to mid-August.”
But then once flowers and fruit started showing up on their plants,
“I was very, very thankful. First of all, you know, we saw the peas coming up and the beans coming up and that was something. Then I was just watching, you know, especially the peppers and the tomatoes. It's like, is it going to happen? Are we going to get anything? And slowly but surely, we started to see blooms. So, it was exciting, but I definitely was a little apprehensive.”
Dyck says having experienced the storm and seeing the damage to their garden was something new for them, but now, “we're in a spot where we're picking fruit every single week, and we're able to deliver. So we're very, very thankful.”
She notes that her brother, who lives across the road from them, offered a parcel of his field to plant corn, which Dyck says was amazing and they’ve already harvested everything.
“It is done. The corn is delivered and we were able to bless over 400 families. I don't know the exact numbers, but I know that they were distributed to many different community centres to families in need, in the area, and we know for sure, that there were 400 families.”
Dyck continues, “And then we had potatoes, they were out in the St Pierre garden where the community had donated a piece of land to us. So, we planted all our squash and our potatoes and onions out there. And we were able to dig out all the potatoes. The onions and squash are still all there waiting for us and we'll wait a few more days before we actually tackle that."
Now, in the middle of September, Dyck says, “We’re at a point where I'm just walking into the garden every, every couple of days and I'm gathering some tomatoes, and other veggies and then we do like, a delivery once a week.”
Dyck explains how they were able to donate beets, when their gardens didn’t produce any.
"OK, so now this even gets better. So, I guess word has gotten out and people are now hearing that we donate to community centres, we've actually had people come here and drop off vegetables for us to drop off.”
“They say, Hey, you know where they need to go, you know who needs them, and so, we've had a couple of people throughout the community just reach out to us and say, hey, we have extra, can I drop stuff off? So, the beats in the picture are from another person that came and just dropped off a ton of vegetables here for us to donate.”
Dyck says with a smile, dropping off vegetable donations at local food banks and other organizations, has been a real thrill.
“There's so much elation and joy in it all.”
“Usually, we're surprising them. I think they are just more used to having somebody come and drop off whatever is left over in their gardens, where we're bringing everything from the garden. So, we'll come in there with a bunch of trays and baskets of vegetables, so they're always excited.”
Their reply is, “Wow, you have so much. What are we going to do with all of this?”
Dyck says they have encountered times where staff have said to them, “We can’t take this, it’s too much.” And so, they then head off to another organization.
“So, it's not wasted. But we've actually had people just so overwhelmed by what we're bringing, that we have to spread it out to many more community centres, because there's just so much.”
Dyck says, sometimes it takes a couple of hours to empty the back of their truck. She notes they’ve dropped of vegetables at Steinbach Community Outreach, Southeast Helping Hands Food Bank, Adult and Teen Challenge, Agape House and Steinbach Family Resource Centre.
When they got to the kitchen of Soups On, they were turned away, but for a good reason.
“They actually have so many donations coming their way this year, that they haven't taken anything from us at this point yet, which is great news for them!”
Dyck exclaims, "It is a generous community. Oh, and we've also been donating to the Grunthal Food Bank. Everyone is just super excited to receive from this garden.”
When it comes to how much they've donated so far, she says they haven’t weighed all the produce, but believe there were over 300lbs pulled from their gardens so far. In terms of corn, they filled the truckbed at least 3 times.
Dyck hopes to continue pulling produce from their garden until the frost kicks in and the vegetables are all gone. Then they will start preparing the ground for winter.
“We're going to be throwing compost and new soil onto the garden. And then we’ll just wait, and we pray about what's going to happen next year, because everything comes through donations.”
She notes that by December they would like to have spring seeds ordered. Dyck says they'll be keeping the gardens as they are. They won’t be expanding their garden and have permission to continue using her brother’s field for corn, and hopefully the garden in St Pierre.
One change they are making is being more strategic in placement of the plants. “So, next year, I'm planning to kind of stay at the same number of plants, and I am expecting that as long as we don't have crazy storms, to be able to give a lot more away.”
Regarding the future of their Community Garden, Dyck says, “As long as we have plants to plant, and seeds to sow, we are going to continue on with this."
When it comes to their volunteers, she says she is quite certain her team will be back in spring. "I'm seeing a lot of support from the volunteers, that like, they're invested. They want to do this for years to come, because they feel it's a powerful opportunity to just reach out to the community, but then it's also just wonderful lessons for us to learn how to be humble and generous with what we have.”
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