Calgary community garden is literally a blueprint for all

Neighbourhood already has community gardens, but had a waiting list for use

Travis ‘Red’ Oslanski (left) and Ted Knudtson (right) put collaborative effort into making the garden a reality. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The community association of Cliff Bungalow and Mission (CBMCA) hope they can make gardens possible in neighbourhoods across the city.

The association created a grassroots garden to help their residents through COVID-19.

The Possible Garden is a pop-up garden that was created after exploring ways on how to better serve the community during the pandemic.

“At the outset of the pandemic, the community association recognized that we really need to spring into action,” said Ted Knudtson, vice president of the CBMCA.

Although the community already has two gardens, they’re often waitlisted. The Possible Garden was created so that everyone in the neighbourhood could have a chance to garden.

Knudtson said this was an ideal time as there’s been a desire to return to self-sustaining practices.

“People are really focused on starting their own gardens, so it’s a great time to have the conversation,” he said.

People are becoming more inclined to grow their own food and pop-up initiatives like the Possible Garden allow them to do so. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The project had the support of the community, the city and ward councillors.

“The Ward 11 office tips our hats to the CBMCA for this initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ward office wrote in an email.

Having a blueprint for success

The CBMCA shared an outline on how communities can create their own garden – sharing it with other city councillors and the Federation of Calgary Communities.  

Knudtson said the challenge was very different from any others that have been presented to the community association.

Recognizing that, he set out a guiding principle that every initiative they do be documented and then shared as soon as possible to help other groups get up and running.

The document covers everything from the starting process, to budgeting to working with stakeholders, the city, design and construction – even how to run the garden afterwards.

CBMCA Garden Project Outlin… by Darren Krause on Scribd

“The intention is to provide that as a resource out to all the communities in Calgary,” he said.

“I have received some really, really excited and enthusiastic feedback on that.”

Since it is a pop-up initiative, they’re advocating for a short-cycle, release and reassess model of delivery. They encourage communities to try the initiative and learning the process along the way.

The outline goes the strategies and methods on how communities can start up their own gardens and convert vacant areas into garden space. The CMBCA also added their own experience within the tasks of the outline so people can learn from their experience.

Knudtson said this is a pilot project that he would like to see spread far and wide.

“It’s to show other people that they can do it for easy and for cheap.”

Knudtson with the first tomato of the season from the Possible Garden. ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Using the community’s undeveloped land

The garden was created on bought land that needs to be developed. The community association struggled to find a land they could use for the garden despite there being many empty lots in the area.

“Buy and hold with developers is very standard and happens and often. So for a season or two or three or more you’ll see a lot purchased and not developed,” said Knudtson.

Travis ‘Red’ Oslanski offered his lot because it was an empty clay field after the house there was demolished in 2015. He said he wanted a new way to use the land and people in the community would tell him it was an eyesore.

“I thought it would be great to start a community garden,” said Oslanski. He has been active in helping to develop the garden in addition to providing the land.

Knudtson said he’d like to see it become expected of developers and landowners to allow community use of undeveloped land.

“If we could take advantage of those opportunities to grow food and get people out doing something healthy, that’s what I’d like to see,” he said.

“In this economy maybe they buy land but they’re not able to develop on it. So that would be a good opportunity to use it for a community space.”

Oslanski said communities don’t have follow in the footsteps of the CBMCA. They can anything with undeveloped land.

“It doesn’t need to be a garden. It can be anything the community wants it to be. Like a park, or a playground.”

The bee hotel is a gift from Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley to the garden. He wrote at the bottom “The power of community building begins here. Thanks for your passion and hard work.” ANOSHA KHAN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

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