Student community garden still coping from losing shed in fire

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The University of Manitoba Student Community Garden continues to cope from the loss of their shed, which burnt down in a fire on April 23.

“The shed itself was a big loss, but it happened at a really bad time of the year,” said Jen Bamford, coordinator of the Campus Community Farm.

“It happened right before we were going start working in the garden and we lost all of our tools, all of our watering cans, all of our wheel barrels, everything.”

Although arson was initially suspected, the cause of the fire was ruled as “undetermined” according to investigators from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS).

“The building was secure and it was out in the middle of nowhere. There were really no signs of anything suspicious [ . . . ] so they’re calling it undetermined,” explained Bill Clark, assistant chief operations of the WFPS.

“It may have been due to a natural cause. They’re thinking possibly [ . . . ] there were some mice in there packing in grass and with the moisture sometimes that can cause a spontaneous combustion. Other than that, they’re calling it undermined.”

Clark said there was an estimated $5,000 worth of damage.

The farm has had to rely on donations to replace the tools lost in the fire. Considering the fire happened directly before their growing season, those involved in the garden did not have time to fundraise money to replace the tools.

“All of our efforts had already started to be focused in the garden. It was a really big hurdle to overcome, but we’ve replaced enough tools,” said Bamford.

University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) president Heather Laube explained that this is the first year UMSU has played a major role in the running of the garden, and hearing that the shed burnt down was not the best way to start the season.

“The operating budget for the garden is limited so we had to regroup and come up with strategies to try and replace the tools and equipment that were lost,” said Laube.

However, Bamford said that while the loss of the shed was inconvenient, her and other participants in the garden are starting to envision what they would like for a new shed. So far, they have put in a request to students from the Faculty of Architecture to design a new shed for them, one that could possibly have a passive solar greenhouse.

The garden, established in 2008 by a group of U of M students, is completely organic and offers a place where student can plant and harvest their own food.

“I think that what it is trying to be is a place where students who do not have access to gardens and land can come and grow their own food, and sort of bridge that gap in their own food security issues,” said Bamford.

She also explained that for students who live on campus and have food storage issues, such as having to share a refrigerator with several people, the garden could provide an alternative.

“It’s closer than Superstore. They can actually participate in the garden, pick food, grow their own, eat it [and] come back. [ . . . ] It can be nice little cycle like that.”

Tyler Guerrieri, a regular participant in the garden, said he felt the garden was essential for developing a sense of community among students on campus.

“For one, I think [ . . . ] to really form a community — which I think the university should be for all the time people spend here — you need food to do that. I think it’s going to bring people together,” said Guerrieri.

Guerrieri also said that he feels the garden helps students have a better connection with their food.

“For example, if you ask kids where food comes from, most of them will say from the grocery store,” said Guerrieri.

“I think it’s important that people have a better understanding of the simple basic requirements for life. The garden sort of does that. It has a grounding effect and will hopefully give people a different perspective on what’s important.”

The garden is still looking for items such as wheel barrels, gloves, watering cans, rakes, hoes, and pitchforks. Those interested in making a donation should contact Bamford at (204)-471-4002.