Pemberton gardeners respond to thefts with compassionate approach

Members of community garden build box to offer vegetables to those in need

Some gardeners with plots in the Pemberton Creek Community Garden have come up with a compassionate solution to a recent problem.

In the last couple of weeks, they’ve noticed someone has been stealing vegetables from the garden — which is run by Stewardship Pemberton. It’s caused some anger within the community, but it’s also raised the question: are the people who took the food in need?

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“Overall it’s really unfortunate that food is being taken from people’s plots, but really when you think about the larger picture it speaks to the need in our community,” said Dawn Johnson, executive director of Stewardship Pemberton. “My dad always calls me a bleeding heart, but ultimately, to me, it points out and makes it a little more obvious that there are people in need — even though it’s difficult to have people stealing your food. To me it pulls at my heart strings and makes me realize we all have something to give.”

To that end, some members of the community garden have decided to build a box at the garden’s front gate that will soon be installed in which gardeners can put extra food and those in need can come take it.

“Some people thought of it last year when this was happening (then),” Johnson said. “To me it’s a great solution and hopefully people can then decide what they’d like to share rather than have things stolen.”

On top of that, a large section of the garden is dedicated to growing food to donate to the Pemberton Food Bank, which is open twice a month and run by Sea to Sky Community Services Society. It’s called the Grow it Forward Garden and it’s part of the organization’s Feasting for Change program. Last year, the second year of the initiative, they harvested 1,000 pounds — mostly hearty vegetables like squash, beats and carrots that last longer than other perishables.

“We start the garden with Signal Hill Elementary in the early spring/ late winter,” Johnson said. “They grow a lot of the veggie starts for us in the windowsills. Then they come on a field trip to the community garden and plant the veggie starts for us in the garden. That way, they’re aware of the food growing cycle. We definitely talk a lot about people giving back to those in need in our community and how we’re pretty fortunate a lot of the time to live in this place.”

Because the food bank is only open in Pemberton twice a month (the next days are Aug. 14 and Aug. 28 from 12:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. at 1347 Aster St.) food from the garden is also donated to other programs like Healthy Pregnancy Outreach, the Pemberton Women’s Safe House and Homeless Outreach.

“More recently we’ve been working with Lil’wat elders and Pemberton seniors to support their lunches,” Johnson added.

While garden plots are in high demand — there are 75 plots in use with over a dozen would-be gardeners on a waitlist — Johnson is hopeful that future community garden initiatives in the pipes could help more people grow their own food in the future.

New condo and townhouse developments plan to add a community garden and there are plans underway for Stewardship Pemberton to work with the Village of Pemberton on a long-anticipated agriculture park. “(There’s a) need as a community for us to really take a serious, long look at food sustainability and food justice and how we can move forward in a positive way and provide people access to grow their food,” Johnson said. “Maybe some of these people (stealing from the garden) would be willing to grow their own.”

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