Steinbach Family Resource Centre (SFRC) has started up their garden program for this year.  

Yesterday evening, families came out to plant their gardens with the help of facilitators Emma and Silken.  

SFRC Executive Director Jo-Anne Dalton says this program takes advantage of all the green space in the front of their building.  

“What we're finding is a lot of the families that we support don't have access to green space or they've never gardened in the climate of Manitoba before and they're new to the area or they don't have access to garden with their children.”  

Dalton says since they support families with kids under the age of five, they find it important for these kids to get involved in gardening as soon as possible.  

“It benefits them for life in terms of avoiding things like picky eating or unwillingness to touch different textures and put things in their mouths because the more you can get young kids doing those kinds of things, the more they desensitize to taste, texture, touch and are more used to than trying those kinds of things.”  

There is a total of 12 garden boxes on the North side of their building, so 12 families are able to take part in this program each year, as each family is assigned one box.  

“Each family gets that box, it’s theirs for the entire season. We try and give each box to a new family every year, so 12 new families each year.”

Family gardeningOne of the families that started their garden yesterday evening.

The families are responsible for maintenance and upkeep, but they do have a summer team who will help them with watering if they can't come consistently.  

“Some of these families are here every week for programs, so they'll water while they're here. They'll take their kids out to their box, their kids can take ownership of creating a little family sign that has their family’s name on the box, and it just becomes a neat whole family project.”  

Families visit their boxes every other Tuesday evening and the facilitators walk the families through different lessons throughout the season.  

Typically in the first lesson, the families plant their gardens and learn about fertilizing, weeding, and pest control.   

Dalton says there are various topics covered over the whole season. One topic she highlights is companion gardening.  

“Because it is a small box, it's about 3x8. You can actually plant a considerable amount of produce and things that you can use all year long in that amount of space if you know what takes certain nutrients from the soil, what replenishes, and how best to plant them next to each other.”  

She says past participants have really enjoyed the program.  

“They love the accountability of the facilitators, and being able to be walked through. And there's that confidence building when someone is saying, ‘you're doing this the right way, or here let me help you with that.’”  

The program has received great feedback from past years, and many families return the following year hoping to do the program again.  

“We try to prioritize new families and encourage the ones who had a really good time with it to do what they can to either find a community garden space or to plant on their balconies or to take some of the tools and tricks that they've learned here to do something on their own."  

Dalton says this program is better for children than people may expect.  

“Getting your kids into the garden as early as possible can really benefit them. It can help their immune systems, it can help their eating habits, all kinds of things,” she says. “And sometimes it's the parent's challenges around not wanting to touch things or have spiders crawl on them or have bugs on their food that actually contribute to their child not trying those new things. So if we can encourage and walk alongside the parent to do that, then it can break that cycle for the next generation.”