Huge harvest from Hamilton Victory Gardens this season
The ground has been good to the Hamilton Victory Gardens this season.
To date, about 3,600 kilograms of food have been harvested since July from these "urban agriculture" gardens scattered throughout the city. Last year's yield was just under 1,000 kilograms.
But the most plentiful single day ever came on Wednesday, when volunteers harvested just over 225 kilograms of food to help people in need. Their crops are all donated to local food banks.
"It's a blessing," said Bill Wilcox, the organizer of the gardens.
Instead of the usual rural environment, victory gardens are planted within the confines of a city.
Years ago, they were used as a way to grow produce during wartime. Citizens would plant in their yards or on any available land to lessen the pressure on the local food supply and to provide for troops overseas.
Wilcox developed the Hamilton iteration six years ago. This year alone, five new sites have been added throughout the city. The newest one is on Upper Sherman Avenue.
While the sheer amount of food volunteers have managed to grow since July seems impressive, it still isn't near enough, Wilcox says.
"When you see the way it's consumed at the food banks and hot meal programs, it's just a drop in the bucket," Wilcox said.
"It doesn't hang around."
With that in mind, Wilcox and his team of 35 or so volunteers is looking to expand the project next season, as this one draws to a close.
"Our aspirations are to grow the project throughout the city," he said.
The group is eyeing potential land around Hamilton for expansion, like the grounds of the Chedoke Hospital, he says. They also plan to start planting in early June next year, hoping for a bigger yield.
"Now that we've got a bit of momentum going, it's getting easier," he said, adding the group could always use more land, cash donations and volunteers.
Wilcox says he's hoping one day, the people his group is helping can start to make the project their own.
"Long-term, we could look at marginalized people taking ownership of these gardens and making it an enterprise of their own," he said.
"That would be critical."
For more on the Hamilton victory gardens, visit Hamiltonvictorygardens.org.