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Green, sustainable and growing

When CUPE 389 members at Delbrook Community Centre started composting waste from their small staff kitchen and one public kitchen last August, not only did they divert over 1,000 pounds of waste from the landfill, the compost was used to grow vegetables that helped feed the hungry.

The composting program was done as a pilot project that utilized an old method where waste ferments inside a sealed system, so there is no odour. The compost turns into a sludge that is then put outdoors in a secondary container.

Once we generated compost, we wanted to use it,” said Mark Raasch, CUPE 389 member and chair of North Van Rec’s Green Team. They decided a staff garden was the way to go. The Staff Garden Project was created to encourage and educate staff on how they can grow healthy and sustainable food.

The group received a grant from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and funding from CUPE 389.

Besides being a spot where community can get together, the garden is also a place to educate.  Gardeners put stakes out to show what the plants are so children (and adults) can learn about what food looks like when it is growing. 

This year the garden produced over 85 pounds of produce including cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, pumpkins, tomatoes and herbs – much of it being donated to needy individuals in North Vancouver – all grown without pesticides and fertilizers.

Raasch points out that farming organically means costs go down, the land refurbishes itself naturally, and you don’t have to worry so much about weeding and pests. When plants that co-exist and help each other are grouped together (like corn, beans and peas, and squash) they fortify the soil.  “Nature takes care of itself if you let it,” said Raasch.