Gardeners face off with energy company

EDMONTON — A group of community gardeners in Edmonton is clashing with an energy company that wants to plant an oil pipeline through their vegetable plots just before harvest.

EDMONTON — A group of community gardeners in Edmonton is clashing with an energy company that wants to plant an oil pipeline through their vegetable plots just before harvest.

The pipeline is owned by Plains Midstream Canada.

On Tuesday about 70 people gathered at the community garden on the city’s outskirts to ward off bulldozers expected to rumble through the area later this week.

Gardener Francisco Huezo said Plains Midstream should wait a month to allow people to pick the vegetables they have grown, some of which are to be donated to the Edmonton Food Bank.

“It didn’t have to occur in this fashion,” he said Tuesday.

“That’s so shameful that our government couldn’t negotiate. These are lands that belong to all the people.”

Huezo said his family and friends have been planting vegetables in the remote area leased from the province for more than 20 years.

The group of gardeners say they only found out about the pipeline plan a few days ago.

Food bank spokeswoman Catherine Williams said the pipeline will reduce how many fresh vegetables they can give the needy.

“That will knock down the number of vegetables we’d like to have in our hampers,” she said.

“So that could mean our hampers might not have any kind of vegetable like that in them for the next little while.”

The province said the gardeners were originally notified about the possibility of the pipeline in June 2011, and officials confirmed the plans to them last month.

Alberta Infrastructure spokeswoman Sharon Lopatka said the government is trying to broker a compromise.

“Plains Midstream has said they’re looking at delaying going through the garden, narrow the right of way, or do some burrowing,” she said.

Alberta’s NDP opposition called on the province and the company to be reasonable.

Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA Deron Bilous said many of the gardeners are new Canadians and some rely on the food grown in their plot to supplement their income.

“This isn’t just a source of food, it’s also a source of community, and a source of pride for many here,” he said.

“Give the gardeners four to six weeks to get their harvest out.

“Four to six weeks. That’s all we’re asking for.”

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