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‘We’re heartbroken’: Ajax community garden once again targeted by vandalism

WATCH: An Ajax community garden is reporting a significant decrease in its crop yield this year. Vandalism and theft are being blamed for part of the decline. Aaron Streck has more.

An Ajax community garden is reporting a significant decrease in its crop yield this year.

Vandalism and theft are being blamed for part of the decline at St. Andrew’s Community Garden, and it’s prompted management and the mayor to investigate what can be done to avoid a similar situation in the future.

“Over the past couple of years, I think it’s really intensified,” said Gareth Hudson, St. Andrew’s Community Garden chair and maintenance coordinator.

The garden is normally lush, vibrant and fruitful, but snow now blankets the site after a growing season hampered by vandalism and theft.

“Really, that’s the cherry on top of the cake this year,” said Hudson.

“The locks, which were pretty substantial, were actually beaten to death off the doors.”

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While the locks on the garden’s sheds have been replaced and re-enforced, Hudson continues to take inventory of what remains and what’s missing.

“We’re heartbroken for the gardeners; we’re heartbroken for the community organizations that we support and people [who] use the garden for their own food security,” said Hudson.

“It’s an open area. Do we have to build a $50,000 fence around it to protect it? I don’t know. I hope not,” said Shaun Collier, mayor of Ajax.

“I can think of 50,000 better uses of that money, but I wish it was possible to have things and not have people do things like this. [The garden] brings a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people.”
Suspect cites Don Cherry’s firing as part of motive behind Old City Hall cenotaph vandalism
Suspect cites Don Cherry’s firing as part of motive behind Old City Hall cenotaph vandalism

The garden has been bountiful since 2010.

Last year about 1,800 pounds of food was donated to local charities — a far cry from the 1,000 that was produced and given away this growing season.

READ MORE: Donations down midway through St. Vincent de Paul Society fundraising campaign

“That’s one of the joys of being in the garden,” said Neville White, St. Andrew’s Community Garden plot coordinator.  “You’re helping people and when that goes away, an aspect of the garden is gone from you.”

Joanne’s House is one local shelter that relies on donated vegetables from the garden..

“Our youth often feel unloved and nobody cares about them,” said Adrianna Vanderneut, executive director of Joanne’s House.

“When they see people who volunteer their time and take the time out of their day to donate things to them or grow these vegetables, it really makes them feel as if they’re cared for.”

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Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help cover the cost of the damage and replacing stolen items.

Cracking down on vandalism is something members of the St. Andrews Community Garden are looking to enforce, and it might come down to having someone at the site from dawn to dusk, they say.