By LAUREN THOMSON
Rob Gardner, founder of Transition Medicine Hat, strongly believes the simple planting of a garden can make a profound impact on the environment, the community and the individual.
Gardner, who moved to Medicine Hat in 1982 to start the Police Point Park Nature Centre, has spent much of his working career in similar roles. He has worked for Parks Canada, the Trans Canada Trail on a provincial level and has also worked for the Nature Conservatory of Canada. Gardner retired a few years ago.
“I would say that what I learned during my career is that people are anxious to personally do things to help nature, and also in particular these days, to demonstrate their concern about climate change,” said Gardner. “They’re willing to take action, they’re just not always quite sure what they need to do.”
About two years ago, Gardner came across the Transition movement online and was really taken with the positive nature of it.
“We aren’t against anything; we’re for a lot of things,” Gardner explained. “We’re for getting involved, we’re for localizing the economy, buying local, growing local and we feel that will help everybody in the long run.”
Transition is a worldwide movement that encourages local action, which is exactly why Gardner decided to open the Medicine Hat chapter. Gardner has previously volunteered with community gardens, helping to run programs that teach people how to grow their own garden.
“When I talk to people about climate change, they often feel that there’s nothing they can do. They feel powerless,” said Gardner. “That’s one reason we (Transition) promote growing your own food, because growing your own food is kind of a basic human thing. If you can’t grow any of your own food, then you’re pretty much dependent on corporations or other people to keep you alive. And we find that by helping people learn to grow their own food, it gives them a sense of control, a sense that they can actually have an affect on their community and environment. I find that there is a tremendous increase in self confidence when they’re able to take care of a garden.”
Gardner has been witness to the positive impact that gardening has on individuals, families and communities as a whole. That is why, as part of his Transition Medicine Hat movement, he will be continuing his focus on teaching people how to grow a garden. A local retired medical doctor, Dr. Dale Lintott, has lent Gardner some land out toward Suffield, with the understanding that the garden will be grown for charitable purposes. Gardner also hopes to use the garden as a program oriented site, a demonstration garden, where people can come out and learn how to grow their own produce. The planting an maintenance of the garden is kept up entirely by volunteers.
“We do have some people that are coming out, and we hope to have more,” Gardner said. “People can get involved right now and I’d like to emphasize that. They can get in touch with me and be added to our newsletter by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also come out to the garden in small numbers.”
Local businesses have also taken initiative in getting involved. Blondie’s Gift and Garden Center has donated fruit trees, which will be planted shortly, and South Country Co-op Agro Centre will be helping Gardner with a fencing project to protect the garden from local wildlife.
“We’re certainly hoping that this will be a group people might want to join when things open back up,” said Gardner. “Part of Transition is building a stronger community, making a stronger relationship with your neighbours and other people in your community, so that everybody can support one another and get along better. I think it’s a really positive approach for engaging in outdoor activities, for improving a sense of community. I certainly want to get the word out.”
By LAUREN THOMSON/ Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Medicine Hat News