Strathcona Community Garden’s 25th anniversary gives a glimpse of the future

Waste concrete became a "natural feature" in the Strathcona Community Garden.

Even at 10 a.m., the official opening time for the Strathcona Community Garden’s 25th birthday party, people were lined up 30 deep to buy a container of honey from the garden’s own hives.

Plant sales were booming, the crop is ripening nicely in the espalier heritage orchard and people were walking in from all directions to enjoy the beauty of community project that literally transformed a wasteland.

As someone whose family had one of the original plots in the garden, back when we lived in Strathcona, it’s a near-unbelievable change.

But a picture of those early days posted in one of the garden buildings confirms my recollection: a patch of abandoned land, no water supply, soil riddled with waste concrete and debris.

Initially the Park Board allowed the garden to have only year-to-year access. Then a large piece of the area, including at least half of the original plots, was lost to the Chinese Freemason’s Seniors Home next door. Finally, in 1993, the community achieved a long-term lease.

Irrigation had already been installed, eliminating the tedious trek back and forth to the park fieldhouse and the espalier orchard installed. Today, with more than 200 plots and thousands more in similar gardens across the city, it’s hard to believe how tenuous those first plantings seemed.

The garden owes its success to many organizers, but former neighbourhood resident Muggs Sigurgeirson was among the most critical.

The legacy of all that work is remarkable: food, beauty and a stronger community, a sign of what we can expect in even more abundance from the current city commitment to community gardens.