There are still snowbanks piled on her property, but that hasn’t slowed Ellen Starr’s green thumb.
The Nakusp senior already has six-inch tall tomato plants, lettuce and other vegetables growing in and around her home.
Starr loves to garden. And that’s why she plans to share her knowledge with others.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing to know how to do,” she says. “It’s kind of a survival skill as you find your way in life. It’s a good thing to know how to do and cut down the money you have to spend on produce.”
Starr was one of a handful of seniors to show up to a meeting last week organized by New Horizons for Seniors.
New Horizons, designed to encourage seniors to be involved in their community, is starting an initiative to connect experienced local gardeners with young people.
“It’s good to be able to share that knowledge,” says Rosemary Hughes, the program co-ordinator. “We’re looking for people that have experience growing and don’t mind sharing it with people who don’t have much experience.”
It’s also a way to connect the generations, and help build a strong local food culture in Nakusp.
“We would really like to get more kids in gardens, and hopefully we can connect seniors with kids as well,” says Hughes. “And we’d like to get people who are willing to give up a little bit of their garden for a ‘grow a row, share a row’ program, so if I get somebody helping me in my garden, I can share a row with them.”
Hughes says seniors bring knowledge of local growing conditions and gardeners’ experience, while youths learn the joy of gardening.
A grandmother herself, Hughes has been working to get her own family members more interested in gardening. Last Christmas, she gave her grandkids seed starter kits and garden journals.
“So what they are going to do in their notebooks is track what they do in their garden,” she says. “If it rains in the morning they’ll write it in their journal. If they get a bug on their cabbage they are going to journal that.
“I’d really like to see more kids gardening, because it’s good therapy, its work, but it’s productive work.”
Hughes will be contacting local schools, youth society, seniors’ groups, and other organizations to connect youth and seniors with the earth.
The program will also see workshops on canning and preserving, freezing vegetables and maximizing seasonal use of gardens. They also plan to build up their local library of gardening-related information. Down the road, Hughes would also like to organize another community garden for locals.
But the point right now is to connect people, young and old, to the joy of gardening.
“And it connects you with your food,” says Hughes. “I think it’s fun, it could be fun. Being in the garden does amazing things for people.”
For her part, Starr is ready to take part in the program. She’s been active in organic farming and community food security in Alaska and Washington state for decades, and loves the idea of sharing her knowledge with anyone who wants to garden.
“The main message I would have is that the wonderful thing about gardening is that it’s very forgiving,” she says. “You don’t have to be a perfectionist.
“Nature is an incredible force, you can make mistakes and still have success.”
The next meeting of the group will be April 18 at 6:30 pm at the Old Firehall. Youths interested in participating are welcome to attend.
Anyone looking for more information can call Rosemary Hughes at 250-265-8265.