Scatters Community Garden is located west of Steinbach. It has grown from what started out a year ago, as a poison-ivy-infested, scrubby unused bush, into a massive 50ft x 200ft community garden, where vegetables are grown and then donated to local organizations that help those in need in the community.
Sheldon and Candy Dyck own a small hobby farm in the RM of Hanover and had begun expanding their own garden to grow vegetables for personal consumption. However, when their plants started dying last June, they visited several local greenhouses in hopes of replacing their dead plants with new ones and still having some fresh produce come winter.
Candy shares what she noticed upon entering each nursery,
“I was shocked at how many plants there were in the greenhouses. We were at the end of June and everybody would be planting by now. So, you would think, like, the shelves would be bare. I thought I was going to get like, the bare minimum, like hopefully I'll get enough vegetables, but the shelves were packed, and I thought that was devastating. Like, how is this possible?”
Dyck continues, “It was the end of the season for the greenhouses and any unsold plants were going to compost or even into a dumpster. And I thought that was super sad and I said, “Why wouldn't the greenhouses create green spaces? Like, just rent a space or something and just throw all that stuff into a garden plot, grow it, and give the veggies to people?”
It was a “light bulb moment" for the couple. After some discussion, they went back to the greenhouse and presented their idea of creating a garden plot on their property where these 'left-over' plants could grow, to which the staff at Falk Nurseries quickly responded with a “Yes, we’ll give you 75% of all plants we have left over.”
So, the couple went to work, tilling up some unused bushland on their property, creating a very large community garden.
“Then came the day, July 11, 2022, and we started picking up plants, and truckload after truckload after truckload of vegetables, and finally after the third truckload, we had to say, “You know, what we can't take 75%, we can only take what we have now”. So, we spent the entire following week just filling up the garden and we just packed the place full of vegetables.”
Their first community garden consisted of 400 tomato plants, 300 pepper plants, and a bunch of cabbage, although, notes Dyck, most of the cabbages were lost to butterflies and deer.
Even after the late planting, bugs, and deer, Dyck says their harvest was still a huge success. “I was impressed because, we didn't go by normal planting rules, we just jammed them in there as best as we possibly could and we ended up getting nearly 1,000 pounds of produce out of that.”
Dyck says, planting a 10,000 sq ft community garden was never really in the plans, it just happened. So, the fact that they took in that much produce was very rewarding.
She notes last year was also a success because of the help they received from several local companies.
“We had Healthistraw get involved. They covered all of the garden beds with straw. And so, for me with my health issues, I actually didn't have very many volunteers last year. It was basically just myself and Sheldon, but with the Healthistraw, I wasn't in there constantly weeding. I didn't have to water as much as normal people would because I had Healthistraw in the garden.”
Once winter arrived it was time to start planning ahead for the next growing season.
Dyck says, Healthistraw was already on-board to continue donating straw and Falk Nursery also wanted to continue providing vegetable seedlings. “They said, "We actually want to purchase and get ready for your garden now. So, just let us know what you are looking to plant and then we can actually create a beautiful garden for the community now already.”
This week, one year later, Dyck says they have tilled up more of the unused brush and expanded the garden on their property. "We've planted over 500 tomato plants in the ground. Over 500 pepper plants. We have tons of peas, cabbage, and beans growing in there.”
Then with a smile, Dyck adds that earlier this spring, volunteers from the St Pierre Community Gardens heard what she was doing and told her they wanted to donate their extra garden plots. “So we actually have garden space in St. Pierre and we're growing potatoes, onions, pumpkins, and squash out there.”
But wait, there’s more. They've also added a cornfield, which means their project has now grown to 48,000 sq ft or nearly an acre.
Why corn? Dyck explains. “Mark Hutlet, from Mark Hutlet Seeds gave us five pounds of corn seed which gave us a field of about 40ft by 650ft of corn-on-the-cob, corn.”
Dyck says they'll be donating most of it, but they also plan on selling some to help with the financial aspect of having such a large garden.
"So that we can keep up with the tools and stuff like. Right now, we're just paying for the hoses and we're taking care of like all that kind of stuff. The volunteers bring their own to work alongside us so, yeah, it's pretty awesome."
When talking about their volunteers, Dyck lights up. She says they have 15 different volunteers that come and help her with planting and weeding once a week. Some of the individuals she knows personally, while some found them through their YouTube channel and others heard Dyck's story and just wanted to help.
"That's the heart of these volunteers. And that's something that I've actually really been praying for, because for myself, in my situation, I'm dealing with Mitochondria issues and I have chronic headaches, so working in the garden is very hard for me on my own. I can't plan ahead too far because I could be having seizures that day or my legs could all of a sudden not be working and my hands aren't working. So, I've been really nervous about that, because I feel like this has gotten so big, so quickly like, I barely knew about this a year ago, and now, a year later, we've planted our second garden. But I had no clue where this was going. I just knew it was going to be bigger than me."
Dyck continues talking about their volunteers. "Every single time there's a handful of extremely efficient people that have come and done the gardening. They know the plants, and they know how far apart to plant things, so I don't need to supervise them. They're there. They're taking care of it. They recognize, you know, the plants needs. They're coming with their own tools, like these are people that are experienced and they have work ethic. That's amazing. It's incredible."
She notes last year's vegetable donations went to Steinbach Community Outreach, Steinbach Adult and Teen Challenge, Soups on, and the Grunthal Food Bank, all organizations they plan to support again this fall, and adds that they will also be donating to the St Pierre Food Bank.
Dyck extends a huge thank you to the community of volunteers, the many local businesses, family, and friends who have helped build, grow, and maintain "Scatters Community Garden".
"I just say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And that's what I absolutely love about this project is that I have been shown over and over and over again this isn't mine. None of this is mine. I will never speak of that garden as my garden because there are so many people that have put in time, and put their own finances into coming to work and building this project that we have going. And I'm just hoping that it's just going to continue to be blessed, and that we are going to be blessed here, so we can bless other people. It's very exciting."