A squeal of delight erupts from Monika Schaefer as her hand touches a hard, cool lump in the dark dirt.
Her hand emerges victorious clutching a dirt speckled, red fleshed potato. Frenzied digging ensues to look for more treasure. It’s harvest time in Jasper, when gardeners reap the last rewards of what they planted in the Spring. Schaefer is proud to harvest food that improves local food security, what she calls ‘northern climate food;’ root vegetables keep well throughout the winter. “Food is the basic stuff of life…we have to know how to feed ourselves,” Schaefer says. Like many other Jasper gardeners who lack garden space at their own homes, Schaefer has made arrangements to garden in the backyards of friends where there is sufficient space and sun. After arriving at her garden with kitchen compost today, she’ll leave with a bucketful of potatoes and carrots that will end up in a Thanksgiving dinner. Like Schaefer, James McCormick is also busy in the garden at this time of year with a final harvest. In between shovel stomps of carrots and dirt he pauses to comment on the growing season. “Talk about an all season Thanksgiving! I’ve been able to share vegetables from my garden with friends all summer. Then I get invites for tasty dinners.” In addition to eating well, McCormick continues to garden because of the therapeutic benefits growing vegetables has: “At the end of the day, the garden simply puts things in perspective.” Harvest time for local garlic farmer Paula Klassen happened a few weeks ago at a small plot she has been keeping on her uncle’s land in Morinville, just North of Edmonton. The event is an annual ritual and family affair, bringing together three generations of harvesters to pull up two thousand heads of garlic. Growing up, Klassen participated in gardening with her family every Sunday on the same land, and sees the garlic harvest as a way of planting the seeds for the next generation of gardeners. In this sixth year of growing garlic, Klassen is amazed and grateful for the resiliency of the earth to produce a bounty despite the drought in Alberta. As a seedkeeper of six varieties of garlic, Klassen realizes “I’m holding space to let the garlic grow.” With all the competing interests for land development, Klassen has learned to revere the small miracle of growing food from seed. To order your garlic, contact Paula Klassen by email: email@example.com. Another harvest drew together 30 gardeners in the Jasper Community Garden at the beginning of the month for a ‘work bee’ session. Garden coordinator Karl Peetoom tallies up the fruits of some of the labour: “From the two plots dedicated to the Jasper Food Bank, we dug up 60lbs of potatoes, 20lbs of carrots, and 35lbs of beets.” The bounty will help fulfill the food sharing mandate of the Jasper Community Garden and demonstrates a way to make good food available to everyone. Janet Cooper, who has a plot at the Jasper Community Garden, says that she has been “blown away by how much the 8 by 4ft plots can produce. Enough to feed a family!”. Cooper wasn’t the only one amazed by the Jasper Community Garden this season. Curious tourists often stopped by, surprised by the variety of vegetables that can be grown in such a northern climate. In part, the high visibility of The Jasper Community Garden helped Jasper receive a high rating from Communities in Bloom, a non-profit organization that challenges communities to foster civic pride, environmental responsibility, and beautification through the enhancement of green spaces. The Five Bloom rating applauds the Jasper Community Garden as “a lively, creative spot where…flowers and vegetables are grown in abundance and, more important, a sense of community grows!” For Jasper gardeners, pulling out the last carrot, potato, or beet marks the end of a growing season from which joy, self-sufficiency, and community have also been harvested. Now is the time to put the gardens to bed for winter and cherish the remaining delicious bites the fall season has to offer. Those who lament the incomparable taste of fresh garden vegetables will begin dreaming of seed catalogues and for the arrival of spring.