The intergenerational Garden is located in the downtown core of Maple Ridge at 22527 121 Avenue.
The Intergenerational Garden is a community/school garden that brings together school-age children, seniors, and the wider community to grow, learn, and build relationships. The project is managed by the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Katzie Seniors Network in partnership with the City of Maple Ridge and School District 42.
The idea for a community/school garden where seniors could mentor children in growing food came out of a community consultation hosted by the Seniors Network (seniors planning table). Older adults in the community were looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities, especially where they could share the knowledge and experience they gained over a lifetime. So the Seniors Network partnered with the City of Maple Ridge, which offered the land and applied for funding from the New Horizons for Seniors Program in 2012. By spring the following year, the Intergenerational Garden was planted by senior volunteers and elementary school children from the two schools across the street from the garden. Every year since, the Intergenerational Garden has provided outdoor classroom space for over 400 students and the opportunity for 20-30 senior volunteers to share their gardening knowledge. The Garden grows food and friendships – “Young and Old Growing Together.”
This Intergenerational Garden grows vegetables, berries, herbs, and flowers. The children and senior volunteers enjoy the produce and every year hundreds of pounds of food is donated to the local food bank to share with the community.
Ongoing funding for the Garden and the contracted Garden Coordinator is secured by the Seniors Network through funders like TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Envision Financial, as well as the Maple Ridge Community Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation, Plant a Seed and See What Grows, Farm to School BC, and Food Banks Canada. The local service clubs, garden clubs, and businesses are also generous supporters of the Garden project.
School gardens tend to come and go depending on the enthusiasm of current teachers and parent advisory committees at the time. The Intergenerational Garden has thrived for all these years due to the steady support from the Seniors Network to secure ongoing funding and contract a Garden Coordinator to recruit, train, and support volunteers, oversee the operation of the garden, liaise with school staff, and promote the project in the community.
The main challenge is securing core funding. There are many grants available to start new projects, but we are very lucky to have the support of long-term funders like TD Friends of the Environment Foundation that understand the value of sustaining successful community-based projects year after year.
The opportunity for older adults to connect with young people (students and teachers) and take a leadership role is one of our greatest successes. A few of our volunteers are typically retired teachers who have the chance to continue doing what they love in a fun and rewarding arena.
Children learn the value of growing their own food. Their appreciation for fresh produce grows and nutrition improves. Last year, over 600 lbs of food was donated to the local food bank, which also includes a special Seniors Food Bank.
Adaptations to COVID
During the COVID lockdowns, the Garden provided critical outdoor classroom space and when supply chains were threatened, the opportunity to teach students about the value of growing your own food. The senior gardeners also had a safe, outdoor space to go and work, which was so important for their mental and physical health.