Growing Food Builds A Community

Reginald community garden Carl Pryszlak

Adults and children of the Reginald Street Housing Complex turn out to help create a community garden that does more than grow food. The residents unite in a learning experience that will have long-lasting effects.
Photo by Carl Pryszlak.

Header-image-Shalapata-2By Ian Shalapata

(WINDSOR, ON) – If you never enter the Reginald Street housing complex, you would never see it. And even if you happen to drive in, there’s still a chance you will miss it. Tucked away in a common area between apartment units, if you seek it out, you’ll find a community garden like none other in Windsor.

The seed of an idea for the Reginald Community Garden was planted and nourished by Windsor’s single most authority on this type of neighbourhood enhancement project, Carl Pryszlak. A retired City of Windsor employee, Pryszlak has occupied his time by installing gardens of varying description and size. He was instrumental in bringing a self-watering, self-contained system, to Essex County, that could be fitted to apartment balconies, or other restricted spaces, and easily utilized by the elderly due to the unique design features.

Pryszlak also initiated the Reginald garden as a result of his adoption of the Food Is Free and Grow Food Not Lawns movements. The garden occupies a space that was once a seldom used, barren, sparsely grassed over area that is now issuing forth nutritious food. More than just a community garden, the Reginald project acts as a means by which residents, from all walks of life and nationalities, are able to come together in their common quest of learning about growing food. Such was their understanding prior to Pryszlak’s arrival that when asked what kind of radishes they wanted to plant, they responded Plasti-Pac; a store-bought packaged product, not a varietal.

Reginald community garden Carl Pryszlak

The Reginald community garden was situated on an unused, barren patch of ground that was an unsightly blemish in the complex.
Photo by Carl Pryszlak.

Education, community, and growing together is at the heart of Pryszlak’s mission, and along with the adults buying into it, so are the children of Reginald. They flock to Pryszlak upon his arrival with lumber, mulch, soil, or seeds for planting; all purchased out of pocket as the garden receives little in the way of support, despite a large sign from Windsor Essex Community Gardens. And the children are eager to help build the raised containers, work the soil, plant the seeds, water the plants, and partake in the harvest.

For almost all of the children, and most of the parents, it is the first time they have picked a carrot or a strawberry from the earth, washed off the dirt, and tasted the goodness that comes with growing one’s own food. In addition, over the two seasons at Reginald, Pryszlak has seen a noticeable change in some of the children as they develop into more confident, helpful, and respectful individuals.

Reginald community garden Carl Pryszlak

For most of the residents of Reginald, it was the first time they had ever picked and eaten freshly grown food.
Photo by Carl Pryszlak.

Pryszlak is not alone in bringing this initiative forward. He works in close conjunction with the University of Windsor’s on-site Community-University Partnership for Community Development, Research and Training, as well as with Heather Burton, who is currently running for City Council in Ward 8. Burton has been rolling up her sleeves at Reginald for a considerable time and was the main force behind the establishment of a naturalized seating area that accommodates an after school reading program for Reginald residents.

With the success of the garden reaching new heights each season, there are also plans to expand the idea through the implementation of another concept spearheaded by Pryszlak, that is new to Windsor. While details of the new project cannot be released right now, suffice to say that it’ll be the first of its kind in the city as various community partners, including the Landscape Horticulture program at St Clair College, will come together to create a unique community garden that will raise more than a few eyebrows.

The Reginald housing complex has a rough reputation but, one community garden at a time, the bad times are becoming a thing of the past as a new chapter opens. Such is the success of the community garden effort that now can be seen individual plantings and containers of strawberries, tomatoes, or peppers around the housing development.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata

Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between.

His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States.

Contact Ian with story ideas.

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