Growing a Community

It’s been a good season for growing vegetables in downtown Whitehorse. Gardeners at the Whitehorse Community Garden celebrated their bounty last Wednesday with a potluck table covered in dishes made with produce harvested from their plots. There was a chocolate cake made with beets, rhubarb ice cream, Caesar salad with home-grown romaine lettuce, and plenty more.

Shannon Shepherd brought several different dishes, including crab wraps that were rolled in nasturtium leaves.

She’s a hard worker, that one. While each of the gardeners are required to put in 12 volunteer work hours, she has worked 149 hours so far. Her partner Russell Shields is the same; he’s put in 154 hours.

And that doesn’t include the time they put into their own garden. They’ve got more than 20 vegetables and herbs growing in their 10-foot by 10-foot plot.

“When I put a sign up in our garden that this is our little piece of paradise, that’s exactly what it is,” Shepherd says.

The couple, like most of the community gardeners, live in an apartment and want to be able to grow food.

On top of that, the community garden offers a place to make like-minded friends. This is Shepherd’s second summer in the Yukon, and she brings a wealth of gardening knowledge with her. Her farm-cred includes such feats as harvesting eight wheelbarrow loads of tomatoes and canning 100 jars of pickles.

Tapping into that kind of knowledge is among the reasons that Erin Sanderson is a member of the community garden.

“I learn from other people,” she says.

This year, for example, Sanderson learned that it’s pretty common in the Yukon for turnips to get maggots, but if you take them out, the rest of the vegetables will be fine.

“The main reason I joined the community garden is for the social aspect of it – I like coming to the work parties,” Sanderson says. “It just makes me feel like I’m a part of the community, and, indirectly, it’s like making the world a better place.”

She and her boyfriend have harvested beets, carrots, mint, and peas from their plot – and kale a-plenty.

The ability to grow an abundance of food is the main reason Kara Johancsik is a member.

“You can pay a lot of money for stuff from the Superstore – and the trucks travel a long way, so it’s not super-fresh,” she says. “Here, you work for it, rather than paying for it.”

The costs are low to have a community garden plot. The annual membership is $20, and there is a one-time deposit of $20 for a garden bed. From there, tools, water, watering cans, and advice is free.

That makes it feasible for Denise Gibbs.

“I’m on a fixed income,” she says. “I really like growing organic herbs and spices, because I can’t afford it at the store.”

This is her first season with a garden plot, and it’s been a successful one.

“I think I’m going to have a hell of a lot of potatoes this year,” she says. “And it’s good if you can grow things that you can donate to your friends on a limited budget, and to the Food Bank and the Second Opinion Society.”

The Whitehorse Community Garden is located at the corner of 7th Avenue and Ray Street and features 66 wood-framed garden beds dotting the 0.3 hectares. For more information go to


Harvesting Vegetables for the Food Bank

Community Garden Coordinator Kathryn MacDonald says they have donated 253 pounds of produce to the Food Bank so far this year, so they will soon tip last year’s scale of approximately 275 pounds.

Three plots dedicated to the Food Bank have produced a cornucopia of good eating. The donations include beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, greens of all kinds, onion, potatoes, raspberries, zucchini and lots more.

“The produce we take to the Food Bank is better than anything you’ll get at the grocery store – it’s organic and so fresh,” she says. “It may not always get eaten, but it’s well-received. When I drop it off the patrons are pretty excited to see me coming in with all these greens.”

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