Viewed from the street, Chuck Kalnin’s North Kamloops bungalow doesn’t look much different from any of the other houses on his block. But walking through his garage into the back, a very different sight greets the eye—a backyard filled with garden plots, where herbs, parsnips, chives and all manner of other plants are growing.
Kalnin, a retired chemist and parishioner at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Kamloops, has around 10 people who come by and help him tend the gardens every week. On this particular Thursday, he is digging parsnips.
But these parsnips will not, in all likelihood, end up on his own plate, or the plate of any of his fellow-gardeners. Most of the food they grow is destined for the Out of the Cold program at St. Paul’s, where it will be eaten on winter nights by Kamloops’ homeless.
“We’ve been growing vegetables about four years,” Kalnin explained. “The reason we started this community garden yard share program was for that reason. I guess I’ve always had an interest in helping out others in need.”
The vegetables also find their way to the local food bank, and to another program run out of St. Paul’s in which frozen soup is distributed three days a week to “anybody in the neighbourhood around the church that wants it,” as Kalnin puts it.
But the Out of the Cold program is one of the most important destinations.
“We put down, I would say, almost a full freezer of vegetables from this garden,” says Jo-Lynn Forbes, who, in addition to helping Kalnin with the garden, is heavily involved in Out of the Cold, which is run by her husband, Bud. “Bud makes soup every Wednesday for the Out of the Cold program, [and] most of the vegetables came from Chuck’s garden, so it cuts down on our costs.”
Kalnin, Bud and Jo-Lynn are involved in what is known as a yard share, which is different from a community garden in several important ways.
“[Participants] don’t pay fees,” Jo-Lynn explained. “We meet in a private garden and share the produce. There are no individual plots, per se.”
Yard shares, which bring together people with different abilities and resources in a mutually beneficial partnership, are becoming quite popular in Kamloops.
“People who for whatever reason can’t manage their gardens any longer will have younger people, or like-minded people, come in and share the produce with them but do the physical work,” Jo-Lynn said, pointing out that an added bonus of the arrangement is that older people often have a chance to “share the knowledge of gardening…that the younger generation is crying for.”
As an accredited master gardener, Jo-Lynn is passionate about educating the public around issues of gardening and food security. She completed two years of classes through Thompson Rivers University, and now teaches workshops and clinics every year for those interested in learning the ins and outs of planting, raising and harvesting their own food.
She thinks there is a hunger for this kind of knowledge among Kamloopsians of all ages.
“I went to the urban agriculture meeting that the city had,” she explained, “[and] there were lots of stakeholders: there were realtors who were wanting to plan subdivisions which would include a community garden, there were condominium owners, there were community associations that wanted community gardens in their subdivisions.”
While Jo-Lynn is motivated by her passion for growing a culture of garden-raised food and seeing it used to feed the city’s hungry, Kalnin has a more personal connection to gardening: these gardens were his wife Elaine’s passion, and since her death eight years ago, maintaining them and putting their bounty to good use has been a way of honouring her memory.
As other gardeners arrive, tasks will be assigned, beds will be weeded and the parsnip-digging will continue. Kalnin’s house may not look remarkable from the front, but what comes out of his backyard will reach across the city.