An Edmonton-area garden project has returned for a second season to help those in need.
The Pandemic Planting Project began in 2020 as a method to give back to the Edmonton Food Bank.
“I call it therapy. It’s great for the mind and it’s great for the body,” farmer David Benjestorf said.
After the COVID-19 pandemic started in the spring of 2020, Benjestorf, who is also a lawyer and Edmonton Food Bank vice chair, began thinking about food insecurity. So he decided to do something about the issue by turning his 11-acre property in Sturgeon County, Alta., into a large garden and launched the project.
Prior to last year, Benjestorf had never grown food but now he and a handful of volunteers are out in his garden weekly.
“A lot of times I would call myself a lawyer — today, I tend to call myself a farmer,” Benjestorf said. “I think it’s the noblest of professions, and so I’m happy to spend all my spare time out here.”
Angie Turnbull is one of the volunteers who has logged many hours in the garden – time well spent, Turnbull said.
“Just working in our beds and doing all that kind of stuff is very therapeutic. It’s peaceful,” she said.
“I try to come out as many weekends as I can — even during the week if it’s a beautiful night.”
Last year, the project donated nearly 100 pounds of food to the Edmonton Food Bank.
“When we saw how the community wrapped their arms around us last year, it was really a no brainer for this year. The question was, how much were we going to grow it,” Benjestorf said.
Grow is the operative word for what’s happened with the project his year. Benjestorf expanded his space — making room for herbs and vegetables.
In the field, production has increased by about 30 per cent and a neighbour has even donated two acres to the cause.
“One of the important things as the year evolved last year was the community aspect,” Benjestorf said. “So I wanted to provide a place where volunteers could bring their family and their friends and kids.”
Benjestorf said the response to the project has been greater than he initially expected, but he is grateful for the enthusiasm of the volunteers.
“It became so much more than just providing food for others,” he said. “It’s not just about a workday or volunteer shift, it’s about spending time with the group.”
“I love being part of stuff that gives back too and I thought it was a great initiative,” Turnbull said.
It is an initiative that is helping to feed the community and providing a great deal of fulfilment for Benjestorf and volunteers.
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