Claire Schulz objects to the City of Red Deer suspending the community garden plot program, saying there’s plenty of space for social distancing. The Red Deer resident has participated in the program for more than two decades. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Suspending public gardening plots means forcing more people to use grocery stores, say some residents

Where is the safety in that, questioned Brenda Gulka

Public dissent is growing over a City of Red Deer plan to suspend this year’s community garden plot program.

Claire Schulz is baffled by the cancellation.

“It’s stupid to do this,” she said, as tending a garden is a way of getting much-needed fresh air and activity after weeks of being cooped up in the house.

“We are being told (by health experts) to get out into the fresh air and sunshine — and what better way is there to do that than growing your own vegetables?” added Schulz, who’s leased garden plots on city land for more than two decades.

It’s easy to socially distance from others while outdoors, she maintains — and if there is concern with some smaller-sized plots, then these gardeners can easily arrange to tend their vegetables on odd or even days.

Schulz maintains gardening is great for your mental and physical health.

Her friend Brenda Gulka agrees.

Gulka points out older people have less chance of catching the virus by tending gardens than by going into a grocery store, where other shoppers have handled the produce.

“It might even take some of the (financial) pressure off families that are out of work,” she added.

Last week, regular users of garden plots received a letter from the City of Red Deer stating the program is being suspended because of efforts to contain the new coronavirus.

Karen Mann, the city’s emergency management co-ordinator, said the decision wasn’t made lightly, and was based on the chief medical officer of health’s recommendation regarding curbing the spread of the virus in public places.

Social distancing and the shared use of public bathrooms and other facilities were considerations, said Mann.

She added the fight against COVID-19 is evolving, and the decision can be reconsidered under new information and health advice.

“I’m extremely annoyed,” said Gulka, who has no room for large vegetable plots in her own yard.

She worries about a possible effect on the food supply, noting that so many more people will have to shop at grocery stores if they are unable to grow their own vegetables.

According to Statistics Canada, 57 per cent of people grow their own food (including in community gardens). This works out to 21 million people out of 37 million Canadians.

Last summer, Gulka grew so many potatoes, she and her husband are still eating them.

Schulz is concerned about pesticides, and wonders where she will be able to get fresh, local, organic produce.

She added many parents are struggling to find family activities during this COVID-19 shutdown, and she knows children love learning how to grow their own food.

The women hope the city will reconsider. A cross-Canada petition (at has been started on behalf of community garden plot users, who are concerned these programs are being cancelled from B.C. to Ontario.

The petition will be sent to federal and provincial governments.

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