Building Spaces for Community and Growth

This year, Mount Hamilton Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ontario, joined Hamilton Victory Gardens to build a community garden on unused land at their church. So far the church’s Victory Garden has harvested 1,510 pounds of vegetables—the most per bed in the city.

The garden, which has 17 raised beds constructed from cinder blocks, has been growing profusely since it was built and planted in May. Volunteers attribute this to the great soil that was donated, but the dedicated group who tends the garden several times a week also contributes to its success.

Mount Hamilton CRC has a significant number of older members, some living in Wellingstone Christian Home, a seniors’ residence next door to the church. The church wanted to find an outreach that would be suitable for the entire congregation, so participating with Victory Gardens sounded like a great ministry. Volunteer Johanna Wiersma, a member of Mount Hamilton CRC and a resident of Wellingstone, really enjoys the garden. “I love to do it, and it’s a great way to help others in our community,” she said.

Since its beginning in 2011, Hamilton Victory Gardens have grown fresh produce for local food banks and hot food programs. This community project, started by Christian couple Bill and Judy Wilcox, was inspired and named after the Victory gardens grown in vacant lots during the First and Second World Wars as part of the war effort. The Wilcoxes believed that vacant land in Hamilton could become valuable sources of food in a city where too many families are in need of fresh, nutritious food. This idea has grown to include 12 garden sites across the city. Over 30,350 pounds of food were harvested last year.

Garden organizer Tara Vreugdenhil is pleased with the yields and the garden’s benefit for their church. “It has been a blessing to see multiple generations working alongside each other,” said Vreugdenhil, “and a blessing partnering with another organization, being part of something bigger in the community.” With a bit of hard work, empty land can become a space to fight poverty and build community.

One morning’s harvest of onions. (L-r) Gerda Vander Meulen, Johanna Wiersma, and Tara Vreugdenhil pick cherry tomatoes. Every square inch counts in this garden with onions and radishes grown in the holes of the cinder blocks.

About the Author

Krista Dam-Vandekuyt is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classis Hamilton.