Should Muskoka follow Brampton's Backyard Gardening Program lead; Patrick Brown says 'absolutely'

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Agatha Farmer

At the District of Muskoka council meeting on Monday Apr. 20 Coun. Sandy Cairns brought forth a motion to deem community gardens, garden centres and nurseries an essential service.

"As we all know I'm an avid gardener ... gardening is very important to our social being as far as providing us with essential foods that we can grow ourselves and with todays Covid-19 we're not sure what is going to happen. It is essential. The community gardens can be done safely and we can keep our distance and it's not just about food security, we did hear from the OPP regards an increase in mental health issues, and it has been proven that gardening can help mental health and physical fitness," Cairns said.

Council will be sending this resolution to the province asking the Ford government to include community gardening as an essential service.

Cairns indicated that greenhouses are fully stocked and local gardening stores are ready to open for curb side pick-up and online orders. The resolution also highlights that the medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit supports the continuation of Community Gardens throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Coun. Nancy Alcock noted that some nurseries in Huntsville are currently offering curb side pick-up. She also said that seeds have been a popular item this spring.

"I have been receiving requests not just from our local community garden founders but from people across the district so there is a lot of interest in this and a lot of support. I'm happy to support it," she said.

Coun. Paul Kelly brought up a new initiative from the City of Brampton which promotes individual gardening while contributing the produce from those backyards toward community food security. He encouraged council to think about how to promote such an idea in Muskoka.

According to Brampton's April 20 press release the city is the first municipality in Canada to launch a citywide initiative to support residents in growing their own gardens in response to COVID-19. The Backyard Garden Program encourages residents to grow produce and herbs from the comfort of their own homes, and donate their homegrown crops to local food banks and community organizations. Brampton residents can request free supplies -soil and seeds, and also have access to garden maintenance tutorials.

Muskoka Post spoke with Brampton's Mayor Patrick Brown about the gardening initiative. Brown said the city's goal is to create "10,000 new backyard gardens during this Covid-19 pandemic."

"It's great for the environment. It's great for food security. It's great for mental health. And it is consistent with physical distancing guidelines," Brown said.

Brown confirmed that the city is sponsoring the cost of backyard gardens for all seniors and low income families. In its first week the program had nearly 6,000 registrations. Mayor Brown said he "absolutely" recommends the program for Muskoka and other Ontario municipalities.

District of Muskoka councillors unanimously agreed and passed the community gardens resolution. Would you like to see a Backyard Gardening Program in Muskoka?

Scroll down to read the full community garden motion:

"WHEREAS Muskoka District Council fully understands, upon the direction of the Provincial Government, that only businesses and services deemed to be essential are to remain open during the COVID-19 Pandemic; AND WHEREAS our Not for Profit Community Partners rely on Community Gardens for the ability to grow vegetables that assist in meeting the food related needs as well as providing physical and mental health benefits for our most vulnerable citizens; AND WHEREAS physical distancing measures would still be needed for those working in Community Gardens; AND WHEREAS Garden Centres and Nurseries could be required to provide curb-side car drop off service only to reduce the risk; AND WHEREAS the Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, supports the continuation of Community Gardens throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic; NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Muskoka District Council requests that the Province of Ontario add Community Gardens, Garden Centres and Nurseries as essential services; AND THAT this resolution be circulated to Scott Aitchison, MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, and all Ontario Municipalities requesting their support."

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