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Caring and sharing – Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op

October 9, 2012

In my article last week, I began Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op’s story. The Co-op reflects the passion of its members for the environment, the able and the less able in our community and for healthy, sustainable living. It is also a great model for the co-operative approach to modern-day issues. Here the story continues, so prepare to be inspired as you read more about the energy and dedication of the people who belong to the Co-op.

Among the dying leaves, red and orange tomatoes ripen

Each spring, the Co-op runs a Nature Classroom with the participation of the non-profit Langley Environmental Partnership (LEPS). This project is financed by Envision Financial. This past year, six local schools participated and a total of 140 students planted tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, carrots, beets and radishes which were then donated to the Langley food bank as part of a “Care and Share” program. The students gained an understanding of where their food comes from and learned the importance of sharing with others.

Many of them experienced, for the first time, the feel of soil on the hands and the slide of a worm over the fingers. Stephanie Captain (LEPS), a beekeeper herself, taught them about the bees which live in hives in the garden and are important for pollination. They worked to identify species in the Latimar Creek which runs through the Maples property and, in particular, learned which species are not tolerant to pollution. From their studies, they could see that Latimar Creek is in fact a healthy creek. The kids’ initial squeamishness about mud and bugs wore off quickly and they relished their time in the garden and the woodland trails that wind through the property. Bruce tells me that “they get so much joy and that gives me such joy because it gives me purpose.” Another example of “giving is receiving”.

The sweet scent of sweetpeas

Bruce then leads me out to see the garden plots. There are 51 community plots in total which are rented out for $0.40 per square foot. Plots range in price from $40.00 – $225.00 per year. Bruce tells me that since January, he has seen a huge influx of new, young families who are turning to gardening for the first time to ensure their children have healthy, wholesome food to eat. He shows me one plot which is maintained by four women, all cancer survivors. Committed to their own health, they are equally determined to show their children how to eat healthy food.

As we continue our tour through the gardens, we come to the Circle Garden which is based on an aboriginal medicine wheel, the north side sheltered by trellises with climbing vines such as evergreen clematis and kiwi shrubs and the south open to the sun and warm winds. Bruce shows me the “boardroom”, a large, outdoor table for meetings which is adjacent to the beehives. When I express some surprise, he assures me that the bees are docile and no-one gets stung. A large pond surrounded by native plants reminds me of one of Gordon Smith’s jewel-like pond paintings. A healthy population of Koi fish eat the mosquitos and somehow manage to escape the herons.

A pond surrounded by rushes and native plants

Bruce saves the jewel for last. Latimer Creek, a salmon-bearing creek that flows through the gardens, has been rehabilitated by the Co-op to Department of Fisheries standards. On May 8th this year, Langley Mayor Jack Froese and Langley Councillor Charlie Fox together with staff of the Recreation, Culture & Parks Department of the Township of Langley watched as some 80 students and parents released 5,000 coho salmon fry into the Creek. Kwantlen First Nations elder Mr. Leketton sang and told the children that they are now responsible for keeping the Creek clean, which was really a message to all of us to reduce our environmental footprint.

You might be wondering, as I did, how the Co-op manages to fund its operations. The garden property is owned by Langley’s Mitrunen family which leases it to the Co-op for $1.00 per year. The Co-op was set up May 20, 2009 and operates as a community services cooperative. Its members, which now number over 100, each pay $10 per year in membership fees. These fees entitle them to participate in garden functions and have a voice in its operations and, as described above, rent a garden plot or greenhouse table. The Co-op’s operations are generated from the memberships and rentals, as well as the delivery of gardening

The words the gardens live by

workshops. The Co-op also undertakes other funding activities such as the sale of plants which have been given TLC by the members of the Langley Association for Community Living (LACL). LACL provides services for children with special needs and adults with developmental disabilities. Its clients receive huge personal benefits by being able to enjoy and work in the gardens.

It is this involvement with the community that makes Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op stand out. Community sponsors such as Vancity, Envision Financial, Home Depot, Township of Langley, a number of local nurseries and others (click here for a full list of Community Sponsors) have generously donated funds and goods in recognition of the benefits provided to the greater Langley community through the Co-op’s school programs, its relationships with people with developmental disabilities, and the environmental stewardship and leadership.

The name of this Japanese willow means “happy”

If you would like your own garden or greenhouse space or are interested in becoming a member of the Co-op, please click here to visit its website.

Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op has so many on-going activities, it is hard to believe it can fit in any others. But it will. It has just received a $20,000 grant from Vancity, one of its long-term supporters, to create a community kitchen in one of the existing buildings on the property. The kitchen will be used to give workshops and host social events. There are also plans to create a butterfly and herb garden. But most important, the gardens are part of a larger community plan for surrounding acreage that encompasses an an innovative and a community approach to housing with the Langley Co-Housing Group, co-operative living, the environment and health-care to allow aging in place.

This new vision for housing, community, aging and the environment will be the subject of further articles, so please come back to visit.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2012 12:43 pm

    What an inspiring enterprise. Thanks for the excellent writeup about the garden.

    • Patricia Sandberg permalink*
      October 9, 2012 4:14 pm

      Thanks for your comment. What I especially like is that they are re-thinking how to build community. In my next blog, I will be writing about an innovative approach to housing that they have.

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