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Good things have been growing at several gardens in and around the city in support of the Calgary Food Bank. Community gardens take root and are lovingly cared-for by farmers donating their harvest throughout the spring and summer months. 

Doug posing with his half marathon medal

In 1996 retirees from Chevron, Amoco and Imperial Oil came together to plant, tend and harvest fresh produce for the Calgary Food Bank. In 1999 PowerGarden (TransAlta retirees) joined this gardening quest. Over the years, these dedicated volunteers have planted gardens on land shared by benevolent farmers, acreage owners, churches and industrial sites. A record-breaking 2023 harvest yielded more than 94,000 pounds of vegetables.  This fresh produce found its way into emergency food hampers and kitchens of our community partners that prepare food for vulnerable people needing extra support.    

These volunteers who enjoy spending quality time with people they worked with are no strangers to growing fresh from the heart. The harvest this year includes potatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The retirees have grown nearly one million pounds of fresh produce for the Calgary Food Bank since the groups were formed. While they do the lion’s share of the work, they do have great support from the community. Donating one acre of prime irrigated farmland to this cause in 2020, Eagle Lake Turf Farms formed a partnership with the TransAlta retirees which tripled the annual yield of produce grown. There is a core group of 60 is able to plant, weed and maintain all of these garden plots. Harvesting over 40 tons of vegetables in the fall needs the support of family members, friends and neighbours, and caring volunteers from Chevron, FortisAlberta, Imperial Oil, TransAlta, the Calgary Food Bank and Eagle Lake Landscape Supply. Volunteers from church and school groups also roll up their sleeves. A special thank you to West Coast Seeds and Upper Green Farms for their generous donation of seeds and seed potatoes for these gardens.  

Fred Ritter, garden coordinator for POWER (Projects Organized With Energetic Retirees) says the activities range from soil preparation and seeding to weeding and finally harvesting in the fall. It’s hard work but Fred says it’s all worth it, It energizes folks when you know your gardening efforts go towards providing fresh produce to people in need.” These gardens also create a venue for retirees to maintain contact with friends made in their workplace over their years of employment. Both the Calgary Food Bank and volunteers benefit from their gardening experience! 

 – Special thanks to John Holms for contributing to this feature –  

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Calgary Food Bank acknowledges that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

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