Helping Hands Reach Across Borders: Fiskars’ Project Orange Thumb® Travels to Vancouver, BC to Fill Two Vacant Lots with Community Pride

Project Orange Thumb 9th Garden Makeover in Vancouver, BC on 6/23/2010

On June 23, Fiskars’ Project Orange Thumb teamed up with Canadian Tire and the City of Vancouver to transform two vacant lots into a community garden in Vancouver’s Grandview-Woodland neighborhood. This wonderful metamorphosis took only a single day and garnered the attention of many local residents. The residents were excited to learn that the empty lots at the intersection of East 8th Avenue and Commercial Drive that they passed everyday on their way to work would be filled with healthy, delicious produce and beautiful flowers.

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“First dig” kicked-off at 8:00 a.m. with a diverse group of more than 70 volunteers from Fiskars, Canadian Tire, two non-profit social services agencies, local residents and the City of Vancouver pitching in to make the transformation from barren to beautiful possible. Some of the day’s MVPs (Most Valuable Planters) included volunteers from the non-profit social services agency posAbilities Can You Dig It! initiative, which trains people with developmental disabilities in woodworking and gardening. The volunteers worked hard and provided endless enthusiasm for the day’s events. The beautified space marks the eighth edible community inclusive garden that posAbilities has started in 2010.

“In our gardens we grow more than food; we cultivate relationships,” said Cinthia Pagé, Can You Dig It! project coordinator. “Our gardeners discover their full potential as individuals, neighbors and friends.” posAbilities Chief Executive Officer Fernando Coelho says the group is transforming underused urban lands and how people relate to one another. “In the garden, there are no barriers due to language or abilities. We can all plant a seed.”

A group of English Language students from MOSAIC, a non-profit organization working to integrate immigrants and

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refugees into the community, also made a big difference by manning shovels, wheelbarrows and doing anything else that was needed to make the day a success. The students got the opportunity to use their recently learned garden-related vocabulary words and even brought their English flashcards to the worksite to continue polishing their language skills.

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The dig also saw a lot of foot traffic. Local residents asked many questions on their way by, and some even stopped to help build the garden. An area woman with her baby and two little girls, Eva and Isabella, stopped by to check out the activity. They later returned with purple and red ladybug rocks, hand-painted by the little girls, that the Project Orange Thumb team hid in the garden for later — an especially appropriate touch since the posAbilities agency is naming the beautified space “Ladybug Garden.”

The volunteers perspired with a smile as they worked hard throughout the day, wheelbarrowing dirt, building

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frames for raised beds, laying soil, planting and mulching, all the while using brand-new garden tools donated by Fiskars. Before long, the garden was filled with delicious, healthy fruits and vegetables as well as a full rainbow of beautiful perennials including sage, daylilies, coreopsis and flowering trees donated by Canadian Tire.

“It’s great to see the private sector get involved in local food production,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “This is exactly the kind of creative partnership we want to be fostering. Vancouver is keen to reach our goal of becoming the world’s greenest city by 2020, and new community gardens like this one are a great way to get us there.”

The day concluded with a joyous ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:00 p.m. The two little girls returned to treasure-hunt for their prized ladybug rocks that the Project Orange Thumb Team had hidden in the garden earlier in the day. People who passed by the beautification-in-progress on their way to work that morning were amazed when they saw the transformation that took place by the time they were on their way home from work. Many passersby asked how they could get involved in similar projects in the future — a wonderful sign that the spirit of community improvement was already spreading.

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Just as important as the work that transformed the barren lots into a community garden is the work that will go into the garden in the days to come to keep it beautiful and productive. The non-profit posAbilities will administer and tend the new garden through its Can You Dig It! initiative. Can You Dig It! will also give back a percentage of the crop from this new garden to food depots or food programs — an important part of the initiative because it helps erase the common misconceptions of people with disabilities being the ones in need. In addition, local residents and members of MOSAIC will also be able to obtain individual plots in the new garden. Demand is so high for community garden plots in Vancouver that a sizable waiting list has developed.

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“We chose Vancouver because of its strong community garden network, and we’re confident that the garden caretakers will help ensure the space is productive for years to come,” said Paul Tonnesen, president of Fiskars. “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working alongside community members to develop something fundamental and lasting to people who could use it, as well as help promote the city’s goals of urban agriculture and neighborhood-based food production.”

Fiskars, one of the world’s leading suppliers of tools for the home, garden and outdoors, founded Project Orange Thumb in 2002. To date, Fiskars has donated nearly $1 million to community gardens through the program. Baltimore, Atlanta, Toronto, Orlando, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and Columbus have been recipients of past community garden makeovers and neighborhood beautification. Vancouver completes Project Orange Thumb’s list of project beneficiaries for 2010.

See what the garden looks like today. Click here »

MEDIA FROM THE MAIN EVENT

CBC News
Bob's World Segment

Vancouver Observer
Project Orange Thumb builds Vancouver community garden in one day

City Farmer News
Fiskars partners with Canadian Tire and City of Vancouver to plant a community garden today June 23

Granville Magazine
Good food for a good cause in East Van

Vancouver Time Lapse Photo Montage
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PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

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