A Season of GROWth

By Amaryah Degroot, Good Work News, September 2003

Many of us have learned that chamomile flowers soothe the stomach and mint tea cools the mind, but for some of us, it has taken a seasonal exercise in anticipation and growth to discover that a relationship with herbs before they are harvested is a form of healing as well.

It seems only natural that an herbal remedy should begin at the roots.

Three years ago, GROW herbal began as a therapeutic garden for mental health consumer survivors, and has developed into a place, not only for healing, but for building community and learning skills. For several seasons, GROW has been establishing roots of its own. Its half-acre herb garden and diverse collection of herbs continues to expand along with a growing community of volunteers who join in the labour and share in the space.

It is amazing how interdependent the garden and its workers have become: the plants rely on someone to relieve them of suffocating weeds and provide space to spread; and the workers are reassured by the garden’s needs and its regularity, and rejuvenated by its progress.

For many, the garden is significant of new growth with a much greater meaning than a patch of lemon balm that renews itself after each cutting. Yet it is something as natural as turning soil for a new bed or seed heads that scatter and sprout which brings healing.

This fall, GROW will expand its herb garden to include medicinal herbs, native plants, and perennial fruit bushes, maintaining a focus on health and healthy eating. The garden has room to grow and will weave its way through surrounding wildflower fields.

This growing season is witnessing other changes as well.

While the GROW project has been supported by The Working Centre since it began, it has recently been formally integrated into The Working Centre community. This growing season, it has been busy linking up with ongoing projects and establishing relationships that will instigate new initiatives planned for the fall.

GROW welcomed the Kitchen Garden, a non-profit project providing fresh produce for St. John’s Kitchen, to share in several acres of land and greenhouse space for starting seeds and storing tools. It has since begun sharing in the work as well: volunteers frequently rotate from garden to garden according to whatever weeding and harvesting need there is.

GROW also participates at the monthly Barterfairs, establishing another venue for fresh and dried herbs and herbal gifts in addition to its permanent display at the Front Window. Its weekly contributions to the Whole Food Box have generated a bulk ordering system between food box recipients and the garden.

This fall, GROW will form partnerships with Paperkraf and the Sewing Room during fall craft sessions, providing GROW volunteers with creative space to expand GROW’s herbal collection to bath teas, scented candles, and culinary mixes.

In addition to sales through BarterWorks and the Front Window and increasing involvement with local businesses, GROW’s natural products and herbal and handmade gifts will be available at a Working Centre community event. Celebrating local artisans and our creative community, the December event will extend GROW’s growing season and motivate volunteer involvement through the winter.

Continual growth amidst seasonal changes proves that the project is far more organic than just a commitment to natural, chemical-free gardening. New plans and plantings anticipate the coming seasons.

The GROW garden is located on Kraft. Rd. off Bloomingdale and welcomes new volunteers.

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