Bountiful harvest at community gardens

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A harvest party will be held this weekend at the John Race Memorial Community Gardens in Simcoe.It promises to be a happy occasion. Ideal growing conditions this summer made most every participant look like a master gardener.“It was a really good year,” says Gord Snively of Simcoe. “We had all kinds of tomatoes and cucumbers and three different crops of green beans. It’s nice to have your own vegetables.”Each of the 35 plots at the Gilbertson Drive facility covers about 400 square feet. The garden was fully subscribed this summer but the waiting list is minimal. As such, there are no plans to expand.“When dad was alive he didn’t want it to get any bigger,” says Phil Race of Paris, owner of the vacant industrial property near the intersection of Davis Street East. “I think we have as many plots as we want. The garden is going well and I know a lot of the people will be back.”The late John Race and his family are known for their philanthropy and community spirit. John Race started the garden in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis of 2008. He concluded that Simcoe and area would need a place to grow food if the collapse of the global banking system caused a prolonged depression.The worst-case scenario didn’t come to pass. However, public interest convinced Race there was a need for the garden. Eleven growing seasons later, a set of rules has been struck that allows everyone to garden in harmony.The rules include no pesticides or herbicides and the confining of tall plants such as sunflowers and corn to the garden’s north end. That way, no one casts shadows on someone else’s production.Perennials such as rhubarb, raspberries and asparagus are discouraged because the land is plowed in the fall. Gardeners are advised to clean out their plots by Thanksgiving to make way for the tiller.Management wants the public to know this is a “community garden” for people who pay to participate. It is not a “community garden” where people can wander in and help themselves.“We have people who come in once in a while who think it is a community self-serve garden,” says field manager David Zeldon, of Waterford. “We have to explain it to them. But our gardeners are very generous. Sometimes you just have to ask if you want something.”Deliberate or inadvertent, theft was an issue in 2018. Signage this summer appears to have worked. Unfortunately, wildlife can’t read.“Rabbits were quite a problem,” Snively said. “And there were a lot of them. Everyone had a fence around their plot to keep them out.“If you planted lettuce, you were lucky to get any before the rabbits ate it. And they’ll eat your beans and beets when they first come up. There are a lot of rabbits around here and they don’t seem to be very afraid of you.”Saturday’s barbecue is not a public event. Rather, it is restricted to participating gardeners and their [email protected]

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