Elmsdale Community Garden – 2022 Grant Recipient

Two smiling women hold radishes among raised garden beds
(Image credit: Elmsdale Community Garden)

ELMSDALE, NOVA SCOTIA -- Elmsdale is in the East Hants Municipality District in gorgeous Nova Scotia, Canada. With a well educated population and over half of its residents aged 15 and up possessing a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree, the region is proud of its “rich history of shipbuilding, forestry, railway construction and preserved natural surroundings.” Their community garden has no core funding, but is supported by multiple grants each year. Gardening Know How was pleased to support this great effort in Elmsdale through our 2022 garden grant program.

Nova Scotia is renowned for its lobster fishery, its mix of Mi’kmaq, Acadian and Gaelic heritage and the beautiful Cabot Trail. Elmsdale is located in the centre of the province and is a rapidly growing community about 30 minutes outside of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia.

We spoke with two Tanyas at Elmsdale Community Garden. Tanya Burke is the executive director and Tanya Ashley is the garden coordinator. Elmsdale is a rural area that’s on the brink of becoming more urban with a recent influx of residents. Still, the infrastructure remains rural, with one food bank, no homeless shelters. There is still a degree of food scarcity and unemployment, with basically no public services, making this project incredibly important to the people in the community. Based on surveys collected in 2022, the Elmsdale Community Garden learned that 10% of their users have eaten less or missed a daily meal.

The Community’s Garden

Elmsdale Community garden has 12 wheelchair accessible garden beds. These and the cold frames are cared for by Tanya Ashley and her team of volunteers. All the produce grown here is given away to members of the community or used to prepare meals for them. Tanya says they grow crops of “everything from A to Z - aubergine to zucchini,” and try planting different varieties to keep the kids interested.

The garden holds workshops and classes; they plant garlic beds and do food prep workshops such as how to pickle vegetables. Tanya and her volunteers hold special workshops on budgeting, shopping on a limited income and cooking for one, since around 35% of the population in Elmsdale are older adults. The program holds a large garden party once or twice a year, including a harvest dinner, and provides recipes for the food they serve.

A Cog in the Community Wheel

East Hants Learning Association developed a pilot program in 2017 to address food security and generate student interest. They now have willing volunteers who consistently help out with the project's events and pop-up markets, where food is always free. The program donates seeds, space and gardeners to grow crops for the benefit of the community, and delicious, organic food is available to anyone.

There aren’t many rules about how much food a person can take from the garden. Their website tells the community, “Don't feel guilty about taking food from the Elmsdale Community Garden. It is there for our community and we don't want food to go to waste.” When taking food from the garden, people are only asked to provide information on how many people they plan to feed, which helps with making garden plans for the coming year. In the 2021-22 period the garden helped to fill 2,673 plates.

Their rules also request a like and share on the Elmsdale Community Garden Facebook page, a contribution of any garden waste to the compost bin and, of course, no smoking on the premises. That’s not a lot to ask for free organically-grown vegetables -- a wonderful service for this community.

They Make it Easy!

For those unfamiliar with the garden’s layout, there is an ECG Garden Map Guide, which points the way to specific vegetables, and highlights what is ready to harvest and when. The map is updated regularly and markers are placed in the garden boxes. What a great idea!

We are pleased to extend our grant program to Canadian community gardens. Elmsdale’s garden sets a great example for how communities can work together to abolish food scarcity and make fresh organic food available to anyone who needs or wants it. We congratulate the two Tanyas and all the volunteers whose hard work keeps this project humming along each year.

Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help. Learn more about our grant program here.

Interested in learning more about school or community gardens? Visit our Community Gardening for Everyone page today.

Caroline Bloomfield
Manager of Marketing Communications

Caroline Bloomfield is Manager of Marketing Communications at Gardening Know How since 2019. A northwest native, she has resided and gardened in multiple zones in the U.S. and is currently at home in Eugene, Oregon. Writing and editing for various publications since 1998, her BA in American Studies from Southern Maine University includes an emphasis in English. She was raised in California by avid gardeners and continues to enjoy the natural world with an appreciation for the concepts of sustainability and organic care for the planet.