Better Winnipeg: Community garden provides more than tasty vegetables

WINNIPEG — Growing in the south end of Winnipeg is a garden blooming with opportunities.

It’s a place where over 100 immigrant families go to grow food and find friendship.

Rainbow Community Garden is located on some undeveloped land at the University of Manitoba. The space is divided up for 128 families to grow their own plants and vegetables.

“They’re reaction is huge excitement,” says Raymond Djimasbe Ngarboui when asked about the family’s reactions when they are told they can use a section of land for their garden.  Djimasbe Ngarboui is the Rainbow Community Gardens coordinator. He says the program is so popular with newcomers, they have a wait list and try rotating families through every few years.

“Not only are they happy to find a place to go in the summertime when it’s hot inside. It’s also a place they can grow food, grow vegetables and have their kids around.”

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Many of the immigrants involved in the program have some experience gardening. They either had a garden in their home country or grew vegetables while they were living in refugee camps.

When they arrive in Winnipeg, most live in an apartment and don’t have a backyard of their own to plant vegetables.

Mixed in with the typical garden variety veggies are plants not commonly grown in Winnipeg. Special seeds are sometimes ordered online for families.

“Everyone should have good food to eat,” says Carolyn Townend from Food Matter Manitoba.

“Having a space like this gives them a chance to experiment with growing foods from back home, trying to adapt them to Canadian climate and a Canadian agriculture system. It’s really exciting for them to have a taste of home in a very new and overwhelming situation of moving to Canada.”

Rare or hard to find imported plants can also be expensive. Growing their own greens, preserving them and sometimes selling the extra is also a financial benefit.

In addition to those advantages, there are physical and social benefits as well.

“Starting here allows them to make friends, to learn about Canadian life skills to meet Canadian born people to practice their English language and to make connections,” says Djimasbe Ngarboui.

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“Many of our gardening participants were able to get jobs through connections they’ve made at the garden here.”

Even though the land used for gardening is provided free of charge from the University, there are still many costs associated with the program.

Food Matters Manitoba helps fund some of the gardening tools and seedlings. This year a new water collection system was provided to simplify rainwater collection and distribution.

For those who are part of the program, they see first-hand how the Rainbow Community Garden has helped new relationships and opportunities blossom.

Food Matters Manitoba runs many other programs including cooking classes in the North end and sessions on canning or preserving food. Find out more about the organization and how you can get involved.

Learn more about Rainbow Community Garden.

Better Winnipeg is a weekly feature that focuses on people and events that make Winnipeg better. If you have suggestions for stories, send them to

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