The EATEN PATH: Learning to grow and share

Brian Minter will talk about the secrets for success with popular and challenging vegetables at the PARGAR spring kickoff on April 26 at Ruth and Naomi
Brian Minter will talk about the secrets for success with popular and challenging vegetables at the PARGAR spring kickoff on April 26 at Ruth and Naomi's Community Garden.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson

One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me . . .

That simple, sharing childhood logic is behind the growing plant-a-row-grow-a-row (PARGAR) movement ready to kick off in Chilliwack next week.

PARGAR combines the obvious benefit of growing your own food at home with being charitable by growing some for others.

But for organizer Alanna Clempson from Food Matters Chilliwack, it’s more simple even than that.

“Gardening is a valuable skill that all people should know,” she said. “It’s a skill that has been lost in the last generation. I feel it’s vitally important; everybody should know how to grow their own food.”

Food Matters Chilliwack is the local food advocacy group behind PARGAR, and it kicks off the season with a free event Saturday at Ruth and Naomi’s Community Garden at the site of the old Paramount Theatre downtown.

The event includes two gardening workshops where attendees will learn about soil health from seasoned gardener Jack Kouwenhoven, and growing secrets from gardening legend Brian Minter.

The first 100 gardening enthusiasts to register in person (starting at 1:30 p.m.) will receive a complimentary garden starter seed kit with seeds to use with PARGAR and others just for fun.

And while Clempson is keen to get people and volunteers out on April 26 for the kick-off, she pointed out that you do not have to show up to the event to participate in PARGAR.

She also emphasized that while making donations of extra produce to charity is wonderful, the focus is on getting people growing food for themselves.

“Our mandate is to feed your family first,” she said. “You don’t have to give anything back. But we ask if you have a surplus, you donate it to Ruth and Naomi’s.”

This is the first year Food Matters has partnered with Ruth and Naomi’s Mission. The first three years the PARGAR donations went to the Salvation Army. The first year, 2011, PARGAR participants donated 572 kilograms of locally grown produce to the Salvation Army’s soup kitchen. In 2012, that was up to more than 1,000 kilograms. Donations appeared to be down in 2013, but Clempson said a considerable volume of food went unweighed, skewing the numbers.

The charitable program is only growing, and it’s doing so in conjunction with the desire more and more people have for locally grown food.

“Definitely the interest has grown,” she said. “People are interested in knowing where their food is coming from now.”

The kick-off event April 26 will get many folks going with their produce growing, but even if you can’t make it, you can still be involved. Anyone with excess fruit or vegetables is welcome to come to the weekly PARGAR drop-offs on Monday evenings. That’s where volunteers will wash, weigh and then deliver the produce to Ruth and Naomi’s to serve in their soup kitchen feeding the hungry and the homeless.

The PARGAR kick-off event is rain or shine on April 26 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Ruth and Naomi’s Community Garden 46187 Yale Rd.

At 2 p.m., learn from award-winning local seasoned gardener, Jack Kouwenhoven on “Amending the soil for planting and the best methods for healthy vegetables.”

And at 3 p.m., learn from local gardening expert Brian Minter about the secrets for success with the most popular and sometimes challenging crops such as potatoes, other root crops, brassicas, tomatoes and peppers, as well as the best methods for organic pest management.

There is no cost for the event but donations are welcome with all proceeds going to Food Matters Chilliwack to support existing and upcoming programs and events.

• For more information on PARGAR or to volunteer, contact Alanna Clempson at or call 604-795-9880.

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