Can You Dig It helps create 31st community garden in the Lower Mainland
Michelle Strutzenberger

A pile of wood, a pile of soil, a pile of woodchips and a few tools. That’s what those showing up to help create a community garden in a day in Surrey  will find this coming Friday. “And then, at the end of the day, there is a garden,” says Cinthia Pagé.  “There is something about (the experience) that really touches people,” she adds.

There is remarkable power in a community designing or creating — not simply dialoguing — together, corroborates Case Western Reserve University professor and organizational development thought leader David Cooperrider. He has had a lot of experience with facilitating both dialogue and creation activities with small and large groups of people. David says it’s in the collective creation experience that the very best of a community comes out.

A previous Can You Dig It project.

A previous Can You Dig It project.

“I am always amazed at what we can do when people come together, when we use people’s passions and gifts and put them all together,” says Cinthia, who has helped launch 31 community gardens in B.C.’s Lower Mainland through her role as garden co-ordinator with Can You Dig It, an initiative of posAbilities.

Working together, for instance, can help overcome the funding challenges that those creating community gardens face. “Funding and resources are always a challenge, but we try to create as many partnerships as we can and rely on donations and in-kind support,” says Cinthia. As a result, the garden is both less costly to create and more likely to last as a greater number of partners take ownership.

The best Cinthia sees happening through Friday’s event is that “everyone has a blast” and “people meet new people and learn more about the reasons that we create community gardens and why we want them to be inclusive and welcoming.”

It all sounds a lot like the asset-based community building that thought leader John McKnight espouses, where people in a neighbourhood bring their gifts, passion and commitment to contribute to a greater good. A key measure of success is the number of new connections made and new people engaged in voluntary associations, John says.

The idea for the Surrey community garden arose through a conversation convened by the Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition with diverse stakeholders on what could be done in the city around food security. Sources Food Bank and several other networks and agencies have all since contributed in various ways to making the resulting notion a reality. About 30-35 people from a local chartered accountant firm are bringing their muscles and some food to help make Friday’s event a success as well.

Cinthia has been involved from the beginning, sharing her rich experience in creating community gardens and helping to source the wood and soil. She’s also made various community links, including with a local community living association, with the goal of ensuring people who have intellectual disability also have a chance to join in the gardening activities and be part of the community that is forming.

For more on Can You Dig It, check out its Facebook page.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)