By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
CODROY VALLEY – The Community Service Garden in Doyles was approved for a grant to construct an earth-sheltered greenhouse.
Melissa Samms said that it is an initiative which heavily involves their family, and is being spearheaded by their sister, Megan Samms.
“We’ve all always been community focused, and we have the knowledge and ability to do it now. It is something that Megan and I have discussed in passing in conversations over the years, and then when Megan moved home a couple years ago, she hit the ground running. So it’s something that really has been floating around as an idea for a long time.”
The garden is being done in partnership with the Atlantic Edge Credit Union in Doyles.
“They have helped us immensely. They’ve supplied space there and they’ve been helping with garden duties over this season. It’s really great to work with them,” said Samms.
The garden already helped fill a gap presented by the lack of fresh produce on store shelves at times due to interruptions in the Marine Atlantic ferry service.
“That’s a chronic issue within Newfoundland and Labrador. Our distribution network is so weather dependent, and there’s frequently times throughout the winter when you just can’t get stuff. So this project is really supposed to help with food security.”
Samms added that while the engagement from the community is small now, it is expected to grow along with the garden.
“We do get pretty regular volunteers and a few people drop by once in a while. We’re seeing some engagement and I’m sure it will only grow from here,” said Samms.
The garden has plenty of produce to offer, including carrots, lettuce, beans, sunflowers, and tomatoes.
“We had radishes coming out of our ears last year; there was so many. And there’s also some potatoes that are in. There was just a small amount this year just to see how it did,” said Samms. “There’s a huge lettuce wall actually that can be maintained all summer and it just keeps going and going.”
While there are no exact numbers of residents who have been fed through the garden, Samms said that it has become quite popular.
“We’ve been distributing produce through the markets that my sister also arranges, and at each of those we usually see a hundred people, usually more.”
Samms does a lot of the support work for the garden.
“I do a lot of research on grants and I do a lot of writing, like communications, and mostly grant writing.”
This included applying for the funding to establish the Earth Sheltered Greenhouse for the Community Garden. The money came from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Recreation. The garden will receive $10,000 towards the construction.
The Earth Sheltered Greenhouse has a unique design which will work well with the weather on the island.
“The general idea is that you take a building, and you create a heat sink behind it – usually a mound of earth, hence earth sheltered – and a lot of the models that we see being built use concrete as a really large heat sink. So it usually keeps the north half of the greenhouse sheltered, and then the South facing wall is where you get all of your sun,” explained Samms.
Sheltering the greenhouse from strong wind is not the only reason why the design will be useful for the Community Service Garden.
“It would definitely be to a benefit in our case. The real purpose of it is a heat sink. It’s the same principle that keeps your root cellar cold. It’s insulating, especially for the winter, if you want to have cold weather plants going,” explained Samms.
Overall, Samms believes the greenhouse will mean an increase in production for the community.
“There are some plants that really do need a good amount of heat and humidity to grow. We have a decent length of growing season here in the Valley, but sometimes we just can’t get that heat. The last two summers would say otherwise, but sometimes we do need a bit of help. So, like tomatoes will only ripen in heat. They don’t just need sun and air. They need it to be hot.”
There is no firm timeline yet on the construction of the greenhouse since the funding has only recently been approved.
“We want to get at it this year, and we did qualify for the maximum grant under which we applied for – the Community Healthy Living fund – which is $10,000. So we’ll be able to do almost whatever our heart desires with it,” said Samms. “We’re really happy about that. We’re excited to get started.”
If anyone wishes to make use of the garden, or sign up to help out, they can contact the Codroy Valley Community Service Garden through Facebook, find them at the Gardeners and Artisans markets, or pick up some produce when it is distributed through the fire hall.
“There is discussion about a food pantry being established, and you can also just go to the credit union and do some weeding and grab some food,” said Samms. “Really just show up to whatever we have going on, and if there’s a meeting coming up feel free to come. If you just want to go to the garden and hang out there, feel free.”