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'It makes sense': Free garden in core helps feed inner city

The garden at 103A Avenue and 95 Street has been embraced by low-income residents

Robert Aromin in his sharing garden.

Kashmala Fida/metro / Metro Order this photo

Robert Aromin in his sharing garden.

When Robert Aromin is digging in the dirt in his downtown garden, it’s not unusual for people to stop and offer to help.

“A man and his son in a wagon, they decided to pick rocks, and a man stopped and said, hey, I’ve got a rototiller,” he said, standing among rows of vegetables in his plot at 103A Avenue and 95 Street.

“More and more people are seeing the garden and going, ‘Hey, can I help you weed?’ So it’s becoming a sharing garden with everybody working together,” he said.

Aromin, a landscaper by trade, started his garden with community in mind. For the past three years he’s been doing the work (along with anyone who offers to help) but the fruits and vegetables are free for anyone who wants them.

“I noticed there is a need to help some people with food, and gardening is such a great thing to do. It’s very soothing,” he said.

“It’s actually more of a pleasure for me to be doing it and to actually invest in seeds, which are very cheap, and to have it grow to full-grown food, which is getting kind of expensive now, it makes sense to start a sharing garden.”

Among the people enjoying the garden on a recent afternoon was Augustine Tarangeau, who lives in the area, and has been picking vegetables from this garden since it first began.

“A lot of people around here can’t really afford food because they are all low-income,” she said. “It’s good for the homeless people, if they are hungry, just come pick and eat.”

Aromin started by asking the owner of a vacant lot if he could use the lot. Then, one of the neighbours allowed him to use his rain barrels to water the plants.

Last year, he even received anonymous donations in the form of black dirt and compost that he said has improved the quality of the land significantly.

Now, the garden has potatoes, carrots, kale, chives, tomatoes, swiss chard and the three sisters: corn, beans and squash.

“We have plenty of kale right now, which is pretty much a power vegetable so I’m hoping a lot of people would come over and get those,” he said.

As Aromin talked, Patrice Williams came walking down the street and discovered the garden for the first time.

“I am so excited,” she said, walking over and picking up some potatoes to make potato salad.

“I think it’s good because you are allowed to just take the vegetables and I think that’s wonderful.”

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