Youth volunteers from Airdrie have been busy this summer maintaining a Crossfield-area garden.
For the past few months, members of the Airdrie Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC-Airdrie) have met bi-weekly to tend The Garden of Hope, located north of Crossfield.
“We were looking for something that would be safe outdoors that the youth could get involved in,” said Dorothy May, assistant program director with YVC-Airdrie.
According to its Facebook page, The Garden of Hope is a 200- by 100-foot portion of land that has been set up for gardening and is sponsored by the Crossfield Baptist Church. In 2016, the land was prepared to accommodate a garden that grows fresh produce for the Airdrie Food Bank (AFB), which also serves Crossfield.
According to May, YVC-Airdrie’s plan is to harvest the produce grown this summer and donate it to the AFB and the Airdrie Community Kitchen.
YVC-Airdrie’s members, who are all 11 to 18 years old, helped plant all of the produce in July, and have since taken care of weeding and maintaining the garden, May said.
Now, harvest is approaching. Potato collection started on Aug. 19, and May said the harvest of the remaining produce will correspond with YVC-Airdrie’s one-year anniversary on Sept. 12. The youth volunteers will gather beans, carrots, beets and zucchini.
May was unsure how much produce will actually be donated, as this is the first year the project has taken place.
In total, around 30 youth volunteers have taken part in the initiative, May said.
She added the whole experience can be exciting for youth who may not have experience in rural settings.
“[The youth volunteers] have been finding the project pretty neat,” she said. “They like how when they come back, they can see the difference in the growth of the produce.”
During the summer, May said, the volunteers had to deal with some setbacks. After a hailstorm hit Crossfield in July, she said it was exciting to see the volunteers come together to see how they could restore what was lost.
Because the project has taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic, YVC-Airdrie has implemented measures to ensure all the youth volunteers remain safe. May said volunteers are all screened with a self-assessment to ensure they aren’t exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms before they arrive at the garden.
“When we are on site they are screened again,” she said. “We are really believing that people will stay home if they are exhibiting symptoms. The benefit of being outdoors is people can easily pick a row and safely physical distance.”
YVC-Airdrie, which is overseen by the Volunteer Airdrie Society, is a free program that runs year-round. Youth that join the program are invited to participate in different volunteer projects. For more information on projects and how to register, visit volunteerairdrie.ca