Field to Fork

‘Some are just hungry’

By Joel Ceausu

“Some come for friendships, some to learn gardening,” says Julia Girard. “And some are just, well, hungry.”

Girard is co-director of Action Communiterre, a Notre Dame de Grâce non-profit group promoting food security with activities that allow access to fresh, healthy food and contribute to breaking down the isolation of seniors and low-income residents.

Their programs bring locals together, working in nine collective gardens throughout NDG where participants share a common goal, contributing whatever skills, strengths and passion they have, and taking home an equal share. “That’s different from community gardens where each citizen grows only what they want on their plot,” explained Girard at a festive year-end celebration at St. Monica’s Church.

Some of the community gardens even feature animation for kids while parents work the land, or kids are equally welcome to get down and dirty. “It’s amazing when children make that connection from the food they grow to the food they eat.” A quarter of each year’s harvest is donated to the NDG Food Depot.

Action Communiterre’s inter-generational cooking and gardening program saw students from a local language school paired with seniors from three local low-income residences and got busy in the kitchen, cooking a diverse and delectable array of dishes that reflect the roots of those who prepare them, and the face of the community itself. “We received a grant from the New Horizons program for seniors,” said Girard. “So we got busy and prepared 30 meals in the residences and more than 585 dishes were served to participants.”

The St. Monica’s event celebrated the launch of a photo vernissage and the From Field to Fork recipe book born of that initiative. The cookbook features recipes and comments from a handful of locals, whose memories, heritage and passion go into the food they cook and recipes they shared, from Agda’s Iranian stew to Dora’s Guyanese fish cakes.

While the bracing wind howled and snow fell outside, inside it was warm with smooth music, wine, laughter and trays of mouth-watering food passing about, inspired by the collective effort. Photos on display for sale and in the book were taken by Ecuadoran-born Jimmi Chicaiza, whose shots entranced dozens of guests studying the striking depictions of fertile gardens, beautiful fresh produce and strong confident hands at work in the kitchen. “It was the hands,” says Chicaiza of a particular crowd favourite. “Strong, experienced, it has to be the hands.”

Funds raised by the sale of photos and recipe books will be used to pursue inter-generational cooking activities. For more information on Action Communiterre and its collective gardens, or to purchase a photo or cookbook, visit
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