By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Taber Vegetable Garden has been selected as a finalist for WinField United Canada’s “Raise The Barn – Building Community Together” initiative.
Naomi Wiebe, manager of the Taber Food Bank Society, says that the Raise the Barn promotion is sponsored by Winfield United Canada. Round 1 of the Raise the Barn Contest was open from July 18 through September 22 and the winners of Round 1 won $8,000, and were automatically entered into Round 2.
“Proposed projects were judged on the criteria if they supported mental health, hunger, education, or community initiatives, and how they would impact the community,” Wiebe said.
Wiebe says that Round 2 opened on November 1 at 12 p.m. (CST), and closes at 11:59 p.m. (CST) on November 15. Legal residents of Canada (excluding Quebec), Wiebe says, are invited to vote once a day during the Round 2 voting phase for their favourite entry. The winner of Round 2 will win an additional $20,000 towards their project, Wiebe says.
“In the past eight seasons, the Vegetable Garden has been the benefactor of many kind and generous donations from local businesses and vendors,” Andy Puskas, Vegetable Garden Liaison, said. “There are still many things that need to be purchased, including: seeds, plants, hand tools, equipment, shipping, and handling totes. The contest winnings will be a great help to these expenses. Also, some of the crops; carrots, beets, cabbage, and broccoli, need to be washed before they get delivered to the Food Bank. These funds will also help out in building a washing station at the new garden site.”
The funding, Wiebe says, will also help with preparing the soil and land for the year. This includes working supplies, such as water, electricity, seed, equipment, replacing broken sprinkler heads and drip lines, and general maintenance.
“In 2023, the Taber Food Bank received over 19,000 lbs of produce from the garden,” Wiebe said. “We utilized what we could to support households that are coming to the food bank because they are experiencing food insecurity, and shared with other agencies in the community and surrounding area as well, including the women’s shelter and other food banks. We also sent over 4,000 lbs of corn and other produce to Food Banks Alberta, for distribution across the province to member food banks.”
For the past eight years, Wiebe says, the Vegetable Garden was located on a few acres by Barnwell. That land was sold, and the garden will be moved to land located out by the Taber Trout Pond, which will be leased from the Town of Taber. Wiebe says that with a new location, come the costs of preparing for a new growing season.
“Community involvement is quintessential to the success of the garden project,” Kevin Leahy, past president of the Taber Food Bank Society, said.
For more information about the contest, Wiebe invites people to visit: https://www.winfieldunited.ca/en/community/raise-the-barn.
“We are excited to take this on and make it a community project,” Josh Antoniuk, board member of the Taber Food Bank Society, said. “The food bank is not only looking for your vote, but also community help by coming out to the garden to volunteer at the new location, particularly during the growing season.”