Alice Gosse harvests chard from her backyard garden – a garden she now shares with Rick Ketcheson and his wife

Alice Gosse harvests chard from her backyard garden – a garden she now shares with Rick Ketcheson and his wife

Rooting for community gardens

White Rock's Rick Ketcheson wants the Semiahmoo Peninsula to 'get growing' on expanding its community gardens.

As the weather gets warmer and warmer, Alice Gosse can’t wait to get her hands dirty.

The White Rock senior tries to spend at least an hour a day in her backyard garden; it’s time she finds both therapeutic and productive.

Not long ago, however, it was time that, after more than three decades, she was preparing to give up, as the task of looking after her 200-plus square feet of fertile ground was starting to become too much for the senior.

And then she met Rick Ketcheson and his wife, who happened to be looking for land they could garden; to go beyond the containers they plant at their White Rock townhouse.

“I definitely had planned to move this spring,” Gosse said. After coming to an arrangement with the Ketchesons, however, “I phoned the real estate agent and said, sorry, not this year.”

Now, the Ketchesons pop by Gosse’s home a few times a week, planting seeds, shovelling compost and doing whatever else needs doing to grow the foods they’d like to have at home.

In exchange for the privilege, Gosse gets her pick of the harvest.

“They do the garden and I can take what I want out of it,” she said. “Which, for one person, isn’t much.”

The arrangement – shared backyard gardening – is a form of community gardening Ketcheson hopes will take root on a greater scale on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

From talking with friends and neighbours, he knows there’s interest out there – interest in the quality, price and sustainability of food.

“I had four offers in one week,” he said, of the response he got after first mentioning his desire to find land to garden.

The interest in building more community gardens is also strong, he said. Together, the ideas led to formation of the Semiahmoo Food Network (semiahmoofoodnetwork.weebly.com) and a plan to appeal to White Rock council for support.

First, Ketcheson needs a better idea of who’s interested – “people to come forward and make it clear this is something the community wants,” he said.

Then, he’ll ask the city for a five-year commitment to do groundwork, such as identify potential sites and develop cost estimates so that the gardens can proceed.

White Rock currently has one community garden. Opened in July 2011, the 21-plot space on Vine Street – just east of Centennial Park – is full and over-subscribed, Ketcheson’s been told. It’s the same case for the City of Surrey’s Dunsmuir Gardens in Crescent Beach.

Ketcheson said community gardens grow more than just food.

“It’s a great community builder. People get together, they meet one another, they grow food and share their knowledge,” he said.

“To me, it’s part of the whole transition to a more sustainable economic structure.”

Those interested don’t have to be experienced gardeners, he added.

One person who got involved contributed the group’s website. Another has raised the idea with the mayor, who Ketcheson said has encouraged a delegation to council. It may be that there are people in the community who have land they’d like to see put to good use.

“It’s just a matter of taking what people can give and turning it into something productive.”

He acknowledged the undertaking is not a small one, but “certainly not impossible.”

To get involved or for more information, Ketcheson may be reached at 604-219-1795 or semiahmoofoodnetwork@gmail.com