By Mikayla Smailes, Dietetic Intern
Do you enjoy freshly picked produce? Take a short trip to Ripley and gain bonus passport punches at the Bruce Botanical Food Garden! I am a Dietetic Practicum Student with Grey Bruce Public Health. On Tuesday July 10, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Food Security Action Group as they discovered the gardens and their programming. Nan Grant, a volunteer with the BBFG, and Amber, a summer student, guided us through 250 different species of edible, organic plants. Both shared their passion for the gardens and for promoting food security in our region.
As we travelled through the garden, Nan described how it was designed as a “body of health,” which organizes plants with similar health benefits together. In the garden, one “body of health” is dedicated to the digestive system; in this area thyme, basil, and lavender are planted together. As I explored the garden I noticed that the aroma of the many plants, especially the lavender, was healing in itself.
The BBFG is a not-for-profit organization that describes themselves as being “small but mighty.” For the past 6 years they have welcomed the community to explore the 1 acre garden. Last year alone they had over 4,000 visitors. This garden has become a tourist attraction as it is solely comprised of heirloom and heritage plants grown from seeds that have been “pure for at least 100 years.” During my visit I was introduced to many new plants, including gooseberries, lovage, golden raspberries and the Ripley Apple. I was delighted to learn that the Ripley Apple is a new apple species that was selected by 324 community taste tasters from the wild varieties discovered near the old Ripley rail-line, and is now featured at the BBFG. The apple represents “the strength of community”, and more importantly “the strength of Ripley.”
The Ripley apple is not the only way community members have helped build the gardens. The BBFG encourages any community member to join in planting, harvesting, and maintaining the garden’s sustainability. Have you ever wanted to learn about saving seeds, harvesting and cooking with fresh herbs? Knowledgeable volunteers also promote food literacy by hosting cooking classes and workshops. The BBFG relies on their partnerships with Bruce County, Huron-Kinloss, the Old Order Mennonite community, local church groups, schools, the private sector, and local families in need. The BBFG is always open to explore new opportunities to team up with other organizations to promote healthy communities. This living market operates with the support of dedicated volunteers, the generosity of local organizations, and the donations of visitors. The BBFG accepts donations, but encourage the public to enjoy the bounty of the garden even if you are unable to donate. This space is for everyone to experience and I’m already looking forward to my next visit!