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Ajax, Ont. community gardeners call on premier to ease restrictions: ‘It’s totally closed’

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WATCH: As the temperature climbs, green thumbs are itching to get out into their gardens. But those who use community plots, are out of luck unless the province eases up on restrictions. Aaron Streck reports – Apr 20, 2020

As the temperature climbs, green thumbs are itching to get out into their gardens.

But those who use community plots are out of luck, unless the province eases up on restrictions.

“It’s totally closed,” said Gareth Hudson, St. Andrew’s Community Garden Chair.

Normally, the garden in Ajax would be filled with people getting their plots ready for the season. Instead, however, it sits vacant.

“As you look around the garden you will see that last year’s planting is all coming back up — this is garlic,” said Hudson, who has been growing food at St. Andrew’s Community Garden for the last four years.

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“I’ve been planting extra to share with people, share with my neighbours, share with people that can’t get out,” said Hudson.

But he’s not sure if he’ll be able to get anything in the ground at the site this season. Like all community gardens in the province, St. Andrew’s Community Garden has been closed by the Ontario government to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It will be devastating,” Hudson said.

“It’s not only devastating for the food, it’s devastating for people’s well-being and I think we have to work with the premier to find a solution where gardens can open and people can garden for their well-being and for producing their own food.”

Hudson wrote to the premier, asking him to reverse the restriction and, instead, designate the spaces as part of the essential food service.

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“We could put a wash station so people could wash their hands before and after gardening,” Hudson suggested.

“We can’t let them use tools [from the shed] for sanitation reasons. We can do things like have odd days for odd plot numbers, even days for even plot numbers.”

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The mayor of Ajax has also voiced his concern over residents not being able to access the garden, and has also reached out to the premier.

“We’re building the plane as we fly it. Nobody’s been through this before, I understand the need,” said Mayor Shaun Collier.

“We’ve been ramping up our efforts in order to get people to distance here in Ajax. We need to be able to modify the strategy as we move forward and I think this is one of the areas we can probably make an adjustment and wouldn’t be going backwards.”

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Community members who plant at the garden aren’t the only ones who rely on the fresh produce. Hundreds of pounds of excess food go to local non-profits.

Joanne’s House is one of them.

“It’s hard for us because I think there is going to be a shortage of produce and those fresh foods as time goes on with COVID-19 being the way that it is,” said Adrianna Vanderneut, Durham Youth Services Executive Director.

“So it makes it harder for us to get the youth that fresh food,”

While Gareth Hudson is optimistic the province will relax the community garden rules that came into effect on March 17, when the government enacted a declaration of emergency, he says they only have until the beginning of June to get in a full growing season.

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