Cat McGurk’s dream of turning an unused and unsightly plot of city land into a flourishing community garden is finally taking root — thanks to a pile of potatoes, dedicated volunteers and a group of young green thumbs in the making.
McGurk, president of Makerspace YK, teamed up with the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT on Thursday. Kids composted, watered and nurtured soil and planted seed potatoes in newly-built garden beds at the 43 Street site, just off of Franklin Avenue.
It’s all part of a Makerspace YK initiative aimed at building skills — and community — through hands-on learning.
“I’ve wanted to do something with this space for years. I live in the area and the spot has been a total eyesore,” said McGurk. Her long-held wish to transform the land was made possible thanks to a recent grant from Rising Youth, a federal program focused on getting young people involved in their communities.
McGurk applied for the funding after the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) received a massive donation of seed potatoes — some 50,000 pounds worth — from an Alberta farm earlier this month.
“When the potatoes were donated to NFTI, I felt it was a great opportunity and decided to jump on it,” said McGurk.
She put the funding towards the construction of the garden beds — built Wednesday with the help of Common Ground, a homeless employment program. Last weekend, volunteers helped prep the land.
“One of my neighbours came out and was just so excited that someone was doing something with the space because it’s been over a decade that it’s just sat, ugly and full of weeds in plain sight,” said McGurk.
The neighbour donated to the initiative so that McGurk and volunteers could access a rototiller to level the land.
“It was amazing.”
Donated spuds are being planted to nurture a full-fledged potato garden.
Youth involved in the project are also getting a crash course on vermiculture — how earthworms play an important, slimy role in the growth of a garden.
“We did a workshop with the kids today and that was really fun — they were really grossed out and excited by it,” laughed McGurk.
More workshops and tutorials are set to take place over the summer — there’s even plans to bring a beehive into the mix — but the budding garden isn’t just about educating young people and honing horticulture skills.
McGurk hopes to help feed mouths as well as minds.
While details and future plans about the eventual harvest are still in the works, she’s looking to link up with the city’s food bank to dole out fresh produce for those in need.
‘Food security is very important to me,” said McGurk.
“Gardening doesn’t take a lot of money, just significant effort. It’s really worth it — you can do a lot to improve the aesthetic quality of the community as well as doing something good for your community,” she said.