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What’s growing downtown?

It’s a hot summer day downtown.

You’re strolling along Victoria Street — maybe doing some shopping or just taking in the sun — when you start to feel a little peckish.

You need some nourishment to tide you over for the long walk home, but you don’t really want to part with your hard-earned money.

There isn’t a lot you can do to solve the conundrum, you figure — as your stomach growls — until now.

A group of volunteers led by the Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC), in partnership with the Thompson Shuswap Master Gardeners Association, plans to create a public edible garden downtown.

The Kamloops Public Produce project will be a public garden growing all kinds of vegetables — from tomatoes, squash and carrots, to edible flowers for bees to pollinate — for anyone to eat.

“It’s for the public,” said Kendra Besanger, the project’s facilitator.

“If anyone wants to come in and pick a weed and take a tomato, that’s the idea.”

The plan is to also initiate a conversation on food security and production, along with creating healthy landscapes and community spaces.

The garden, which will be a series of raised beds, will be located on a thin strip of land in the 100-block of Victoria Street now sitting empty.

Not to be confused with a community garden — there are several in Kamloops, but you can’t just walk in and grab somethng to eat — this garden will be completely open to the public.

Besanger said the garden is a test to see how the community responds to such a project.

If successful, the group hopes to see more public edible gardens springing up in the Tournament Capital.

Alhough the idea of the public garden has been in the works for some time, it didn’t start to grow until it got a big boost from two sources.

The gardeners association received a food-safety grant from the Interior Health Authority for $4,500, while prominent local developer Casey van Dongen donated the land — for the time being.

The developer said he doesn’t have use for the property now and, when he was approached by the group, he thought it sounded like a good idea.

“It’s better that land is getting used than wasting away and no one maintaining it,” van Dongen said, adding the concept may catch on and spread throughout the city.

He said it could be a couple of years before he decides what to do with the land.

Laura Kalina, co-chair of KFPC, said the role of the organization is to make healthy food available in Kamloops — and the garden is an extension of that ideal.

So far, there is plenty of interest in the project, as 20 people have signed up as volunteers to tend the garden.

The group is hoping to ultimately end up with a volunteer base of about 40 people.

However, like anything left open to the public, there is a potential for misuse and damage, but Besanger

contends that’s all part of the project.

“We really hope as a community space that’s cared for by a variety of people, people will respect it for what it is,” she said.

It will still be a few months yet before Kamloopsians can indulge in some truly locally grown produce from the garden.

Planting season doesn’t start until May, depending on the weather.

In the meantime, the group intends to start the clean-up and prep for the site.

Anyone looking for more information on the project can contact publicproduceproject@gmail.com, or check out the group’s blog at

publicproduceproject.blogspot.com.

 

 

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