Community Garden Springing Up

Re-posted from Keith Dempsey, Hanover Post at

Two community garden coordinators from the area, Lydia Dyck and Simona Freiberg, have been designing and implementing the beginnings of a community garden on site at Riverstone Retreat Centre, located just west of Durham.

“When you’re starting something from scratch, when you see an empty field and you turn it into something, you can see the progress, it’s very fulfilling, motivating and inspiring,” Freiberg, who lives in Meaford, though is a dual citizen of the Czech Republic, said. Simona studied to be a legal assistant at Humber college, Gender Studies at Athabasca University, and also took a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in British Columbia. She is now the coordinator of the Meaford community gardens, and she is assisting the development of many other community gardens in the area. She is also developing the Community Gardens Network through Grey Bruce Sustainability Network, which will seek to coordinate best practices between gardens and share experience and enthusiasm for growing food.

Dyck and Freiberg have a team of roughly seven people who are assisting them with this community gardens project. And they’re putting a call out to community members interested in participating in the growing season. Those interested should contact

“We’re happy to have people come on board with us,” Dyck, who lives in Durham but recently graduated from college in Indiana, with degrees in biology and sustainability studies, said.

“We’re happy for people to come for just one day, but we’d love if somebody would like to get their hands dirty and commit to coming regularly and getting to know the garden.” Freiberg said all levels of experience with gardening are welcomed.

“We always need people and everybody brings to the table something they’re good at,” Freiberg said. The property was purchased a few years ago by the youth educational charity Elephant Thoughts and is on its way to becoming a hub of activity, education, festival and meeting space for this community.

Several main goals of this garden are to educate groups of youth that come through, including those in the day camps this summer partnered with the Municipality of West Grey, as well as to provide workshops for community members as the pandemic allows.

“This is one of the examples of how partnerships can happen with the community here,” Dyck said. “Down the road we can imagine many types of workshops happening at the garden including permaculture, seed saving, cooking and food preservation, in addition to painting workshops, drumming circles and whatever else the community will bring forward. The potential is there and is growing with the garden.”

This community garden is the start of a bunch of opportunities for the community to get involved, Dyck said. “This is just the beginning,” she said. “(Elephant Thoughts) want this to be seen as a space that can be approached and used to build a community around here. It’s really exciting to be part of that beginning.” Keyhole garden bed with accessible gathering space behind, with construction of outdoor kitchen underway.

The gardens include accessible beds for both people of limited mobility as well as wheelchair users. So far, the gardens include ground vegetable beds, bee and butterfly gardens, a greenhouse and a food forest.

Putting time and effort into this garden has been a nice escape from the pandemic for Freiberg and Dyck. “Working with plants in general is a retreat,” Dyck said. “It’s a place you can find renewal as you’re growing with these plants. I’ve been learning lots already and working together has been amazing.”

“We are growing with the plants,” Freiberg added.

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