MONCTON – Eric Comeau usually donates organic compost from his indoor microgreens farm, Vital Source Nutrition, to various community gardens. But this year, he wants to specfically help a program aimed at creating 100 community gardens in the city.
“This year I want to go all out. I want to give The Garden Cities Project as much compost as they need,” he said. “My main goal right now is…I’m desperate to have people start growing their own food.”
The Garden Cities Project is the group leading the Moncton Community Gardens Program launched in February. Comeau is one of the founding members of the group, which was established around five years ago.
The Bathurst native started his company in 2011, using the space of a former tire factory. He started growing his own vegetables in the late 1990s when he was living in British Columbia. But he pursued it full-time when he moved to Moncton.
Today, he’s able to produce 6,000 pounds of microgreens a year in less than 2,000 square feet of space at 607 St. George Boulevard. He uses artificial light, allowing him to control factors that affect the life cycle of his vegetables. He sells the produce to grocery stores like Sequoia, the Dieppe Market and restaurants like the Tide and Boar and Pastalli, among others.
“One advantage of microgreens is their nutritional value,” he said, citing a 2012 study that suggests microgreens have more nutrients than mature vegetables. “Another advantage is their short growth cycle. So I can basically harvest every week as opposed to every three months. There’s a lot less demand on soil, a lot less labour and less wastage.”
Comeau donates a load of 28 containers of 64 litres of organic compost a week to the Garden Cities Project and community gardens and efforts to turn pastoral land into agricultural land around the city. He has also donated produce to food banks.
“It makes me feel really good and really appreciated. I’d rather get a loving hug and many thanks than a paycheque any day, as long as my needs are met, that’s all I care about and that’s what most organic farmers care about,” he said.
To him, working with the earth is a spiritual thing and he wants to see more people grow their own food, even in their own homes.
“By all means, I encourage people to buy organic and support organic growers, but the only way you can be completely sure that you’re getting good food is by growing it yourself,” he said.
The Moncton Community Garden Program’s Christine Lund says the program aims to encourage just that. Their group was approached by the City of Moncton to start the program as part of its mandate to help with local food and as part of the social inclusion plan.
“It’s very community-led but supported by the city. The long-term goal is for there to be a community garden within a 15-minute walking distance for anyone living within the city,” says Lund.
Community gardens have been growing in popularity across Canada, particularly in cities like Vancouver.
Lund says the Moncton Community Garden Program also wants to revitalize existing community gardens and put to use public green spaces that are underutilized. The program also aims to connect gardeners so that they can learn from each other and facilitate workshops to teach people how to garden.
“People who are food insecure, if they can learn how to grow their own food, then they wouldn’t be so reliant on food banks,” says Lund.