It’s been a long, cold winter.
Yet, everywhere you look there are clear signs that spring is around the corner. March is a time to thaw, put down our winter gloves, wipe last season’s soil off of our gardening gloves, and start anew—the growing season is almost here.
A couple of months ago, in the dead of my first Winnipeg winter, I met Tika Adhikari. Tika is a gardener at Rainbow Community Gardens. At a time when I couldn’t imagine anything growing in the coldest place I, and many others at Rainbow Community Gardens, have ever lived, Tika told me warm stories of the newcomer community that grows out of a collective desire to grow good food.
Rainbow Community Gardens first started back in 2008. The community garden plots are for newcomer families that come from a range of different countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, India Bangladesh, China, Somalia, Nigeria, and more. Despite coming from different parts of the world, many of the families share a background in subsistence farming, where small-scale farming is the main source of food. The gardens are an opportunity for newcomers to access foods that they are familiar with and have the skill set to grow. Tika talks of his fellow gardeners as having an intimate link with the land and how they grow food,
“Rather than buying from the grocery stores, they prefer to grow it themselves and getting the fresh fruit and veggies is a very big part of the community to have that. They have been growing it themselves and eating it, so they are used to that, and I think it gives them a good feeling.”
Gardens that Grow Healthy Relationships
To Tika, this is an important aspect of the gardens because to him, good food means fresh vegetables. He is confident that the effort and care you put into your garden can make the vegetables taste better. Creating a space for newcomers to grow and harvest their own food is a very important aspect of Rainbow Community Gardens; however, Tika believes that the gardens serve a dual purpose. Besides fostering healthy food choices, the gardens provide a space to help grow and foster healthy social relationships in the newcomer community, a space where they can discuss their family and personal matters with each other.
Tika sees the gardens as an avenue for newcomers to gather, meet and discuss their everyday experiences. It can be challenging to find the time to stay in touch with friends, but at the gardens there is an opportunity to reconnect not only with growing food on the land but more importantly, to reconnect with each other. Community Champion, and the beginning force behind Rainbow Community Gardens, Raymond Ngarboui, says that “isolation is one of the main factors of mental health and depression within the newcomer families. Homesickness and community isolation.” At the gardens, newcomers are able to foster and grow their support networks.
“You are like a support, a community support. For whatever things they have to come and ask for, things they want to get help for, that we could do something for that and create a formal structure for that. That I find very useful.”
As someone who has been in Winnipeg for 15 years, and actively involved in Rainbow Community Gardens since 2012, Tika seeks social interaction at the gardens in order to continue to understand the things that the newcomer community encounters; whether that be to support their hardships or celebrate their triumphs. Having been here for some time now, his role has become that of a leader; encouraging others’ integration and settlement. Through this leadership role, he hopes to provide support and guidance to his community beyond just tips for growing in the Manitoban soil.
Feature Photo By: N. Philibert
By: Rebecca Black, Digital Communications Intern, Food Matters Manitoba
You can help newcomer families grow their own food, build community, and improve their overall health. We need your help to keep community gardens growing. Donate today to good food!