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#UofReginaCares: Caring for our community
You Should Garden (YSG) distributed 104 grow bags through its Emergency Gardening Supplies Program. (Clockwise from bottom left: Md Abdul Hossain (YSG team member), Tayef Ahmed (YSG Project Manager), and Annaliese Beck-McKenzie (YSG Project Coordinator).
You Should Garden (YSG) distributed 104 grow bags through its Emergency Gardening Supplies Program. (Clockwise from bottom left: Md Abdul Hossain (YSG team member), Tayef Ahmed (YSG Project Manager), and Annaliese Beck-McKenzie (YSG Project Coordinator). Credit: Tinsae Alemu

Planting a passion for gardening

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: May 22, 2020 12:00 p.m.


With tips, tools, soil, and seeds, students at the University of Regina are growing a community of new urban gardeners in the Queen City and are helping to improve food security. 

Founded by second-year student Tayef Ahmed who is studying Human Justice, You Should Garden is a team of twelve U of R students who are working to empower people from all walks of life with the resources, knowledge, and social support they need to get gardening. 

“I’ve always tried to do something to teach people about growing food and inspire them to garden,” said Ahmed. “Working at the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) as a Garden Coordinator has given me the hope and strength to launch this project.” 

Ahmed’s motivation to create You Should Garden comes from personal experience. 

“Food poverty has become a serious problem. While growing up, sometimes I didn’t have the chance to get food to eat, let alone nutritious food,” said Ahmed. “Hunger was a part of my life, and now it disturbs my mental health, worrying about those individuals who can’t have food on the table.” 

Through innovative programming and strong partnerships with community organizations, You Should Garden is breaking down obstacles to successful urban gardening and helping people who are struggling with food insecurity due to barriers such as unemployment and low income. 

“Not having enough resources to be able to garden or lacking knowledge about gardening discourages people from starting,” said Annaliese Beck-McKenzie, a fourth-year biology student at the U of R and Project Coordinator of You Should Garden. 

ysg3.jpeg
Thanks to funding from its partners,
YSG was able to distribute seedlings
to new gardeners. Photo: Tinsae
Alemu

To address this need, You Should Garden started two programs, with the help of funding partners, which could be delivered quickly and safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Through its Emergency Gardening Supplies Program, student volunteers distributed seeds, seedlings, and fertilized soil in containers (known as “grow bags”) to applicants for free, thanks to funding from Souls Harbor Rescue Mission (SHRM), RPIRG, and UR Sustainability, along with volunteer support from Regina Seedy Saturday and Enactus Regina. This meant that new gardeners could garden in their yards without having to worry about lacking the space and supplies. 

Although it was open to everyone, the Emergency Gardening Supplies Program was targeted at people who are struggling to put food on the table. The response to the program was amazing and immediate – the number of applications quickly outnumbered the supplies available. 

“We received many requests for supplies after the application had closed – more than we had the funding to support,” said Beck-McKenzie. “Al­­­­l of our 26 applicants were really keen to garden. During the pandemic, many people are finding themselves with more time to do things at home, and gardening is an accessible and enjoyable way to procure fresh, inexpensive produce.” 

To help support new gardeners, You Should Garden has also started a free workshop series online, which will begin in early June. 

“Our workshops will be really important for educating people about composting, urban gardening, pest and weed control, and food preservation,” said Beck-McKenzie. 

“It was such a joy to partner with the amazing students from the University of Regina on the Emergency

ysg1.jpeg
YSG has built a strong partnership
with many community organizations
to help improve food security.
(Clockwise from bottom left:
Tayef Ahmed (YSG Project Manager),
Md Abdul Hossain (YSG team
member), Mahnoor Tajik (Enactus
Project Manager), Jamaluddin Sakib
(Volunteer), Amy Mantyka (Volunteer),
and Tinsae Alemu (Enactus Project
Manager). Photo: Allen Lunan

Gardening Supplies Program,” said Sharon Pratchler, organizer of Regina Seedy Saturday, an organic group of community builders that hosts events and shares resources, namely seeds. “They demonstrated tremendous organizational and planning skills to deliver on a project that had three essential elements. It built community, required quick action, and provided gardening opportunities to students and families who wouldn’t have otherwise had the resources or space to grow their own food.” 

Prior to COVID-19, You Should Garden had planned several larger community programs, including a Community Garden Program and Garden Makeover Program, which they were working on with their partners and funders, but had to postpone until next year. 

“Successful initiatives make sustainable change by involving a lot of different people and organizations who share their knowledge and skills to contribute to a larger goal. This also provides institutional memory and ensures the long-term sustainability of an initiative,” stressed Beck-McKenzie. 

“As a social and environmental justice organization, mutual aid projects like this align directly with our mandate, and this is the main reason why we chose to fund this initiative,” said Krystal Lewis, Executive Director of RPIRG. “It is our goal to encourage students to take action on campus and in their communities, and we are very proud of all of the hard work this group has done so far.” 

For more information on You Should Garden, and their online workshops and programs, visit: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yousgarden/

Website: https://www.yousgarden.org/ 

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times.