For the past 15 years, the Cochrane Community Gardens Society (CCGS) has fostered a space for locals to grow produce and flowers while growing community bonds.

Partnering with the Cochrane and District Horticultural Society, Glenbow School, and tenant gardeners, the CCGS hopes to expand gardening opportunities across Cochrane. The gardens allow gardeners to connect and share experiences while growing something beautiful together.

Andrea Blonsky, Chair of CCGS, says the more communities that feature garden spaces, the better. 

“What we want and what we advocate for is that when new communities are created,  developers put community garden space. That happened in Fireside and we were part of the consultative process with the developer.”

When it comes to starting a community garden, she says the first step is to find a core group of dedicated volunteers who are committed to the project. From there, scout potential sites, such as townlands, churches, schools, or private properties.

Engage with affected neighbours through public consultations and open houses, and determine town planning requirements to obtain necessary permissions.

As far as the benefits of a community garden, with the price of living ever-growing, Blonsky says planting produce can go a long way in bringing monthly costs down.

“From a cost perspective, we're still eating produce from the garden last year. I have potatoes in cold storage. I have carrots in cold storage. I roast a lot of my vegetables. I freeze onion and garlic and there are different food preservation techniques.”

“You can do it on a small scale too. You can do it on a condo balcony and put six tomato plants. I have what’s called Andrina tomatoes. They only grow about 6 to 8 inches high and they're covered with 100 little cherry tomatoes on them each. You put a window box like that. You can be eating tomatoes off your deck all summer long.”

She says benefits extend beyond gardening, offering educational opportunities and fulfilling social responsibilities like providing produce for community programs.

“We do a lot of advocacy work right now. We do a lot of courses. We have presented courses for the library in Cochrane for we used to have a community kitchen that we would participate in as well. I recently did a presentation in Calgary on food preservation techniques. We have gone out to various horticultural regional societies and garden clubs where we present our courses. It's just a matter of wanting to share the enthusiasm for growing and for growing your own food in particular.”

Over the upcoming weeks and months, The Cochrane Community Gardens Society plans to work with several communities throughout town to find more ways to offer growing opportunities in Cochrane.