New orchard helps Calgary’s most vulnerable

WATCH ABOVE: As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the trees will help Calgarians who used to live on the street while making the community a little greener.

CALGARY – A northeast Calgary neighbourhood got a new orchard Sunday, complete with apples and berries.

The trees will help out Calgarians who used to live on the street, as well as make the community a little greener.

54 beautiful orchards were planted at two Calgary Homeless Foundation apartment buildings.

The Community Orchards Project is part of the Respect the Earth And All People Business Association and Enactus Calgary (REAP).

Snow peas don’t last very long when Abbeydale Place resident Vince Fuhrer is around, and now, the amateur gardener is savouring the fruits of his labour.

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“Oh that’s what I like the best, no pesticides, no nothing, you know what you’re eating as healthy for you,” Fuhrer said. “I started eating the snow peas all the time. I’d pick them off raw. I’m a thief when it comes to snow peas.”

Vince is one of 24 residents of Abbeydale Place. People with high medical needs who  used to live on the streets now have a roof over their heads and garden under their feet.

“By placing them in a home and surrounding them with support, as well as on-site medical nursing care, we’ve been able to divert costs away from emergency rooms and hospitals significantly in the last three years,” said Sue Fortune from The Alex Community Health Centre.

Clients at Abbeydale Place have been growing vegetables for a few years but this weekend, thanks to donations from seven Calgary businesses, apple trees and berry bushes are sprouting up.

Stephanie Jackman from REAP (the business organization that donated the plants), says there’s so many great food options you can plant in this city.

“People are continually surprised at the variety of things we can plant in our orchards and that will thrive here in Calgary. All of the plants that are donated are indigenous species resourced from Greengate Garden Centers, so they all thrive without a lot of additional work,” Jackman said.

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Staff at Abbeydale Place say the garden has been therapeutic for residents.

“I think it’s fantastic because we want our clients who were previously high risk with health problems, to be as healthy as possible and a lot of our clients take a lot of pride in the garden. Our garden is made only by clients. Staff haven’t helped at all, it’s been them taking the initiative,” said Ketzia Shapira from The Alex – Abbeydale Place.

Unfortunately, the recent hail storm beat up part of the garden,  but the enthusiasm of the those who tend to it, is still blooming.

“I think it’s just super because of all the hard effort and the love that has been put into it, anything people do with their heart and soul is going to turn out,” Shapira said.

All plants were donated by REAP businesses.

“These businesses are really committed to using business as a force for food. So they have figured out a way to not only profit but do it in a way that benefits the environment and the community and our community orchards program is one of the living breathing examples that we have of that,” Jackman said.

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