Transit riders waiting for a bus in front of EcoSuperior on Red River Road will soon be able to grab a healthy snack—a crunchy pea pod, mini cucumber or ripe tomato. The veggies are growing in a mini garden right next to the bus shelter, planted and cared for by EcoSuperior staff and supported by the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy. Thunder Bay Transit provided the signage and hopes to see the concept take root at other bus stops around the city.
Food Strategy coordinator Kendal Donahue says it’s an idea with a lot of community benefits. “It’s a creative way to help promote transit as well as locally grown food and healthier snacks. Food gardens in unexpected places show people how easy it is to grow vegetables, and caring for the gardens helps build a sense of community,” she adds.
In late June, the wood planter box was installed next to the bus shelter. EcoSuperior’s office compost bin was emptied into it, a few bags of topsoil added, then the tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans and strawberries were planted. Plant markers identify the crops with appropriate names like Commuter Cucumbers, Pedestrian Peas and Bike Rack Beans.
“Our hope is that transit riders and pedestrians will pick and enjoy the fresh produce as it ripens throughout the summer. The objective is to make public transit and active transportation more popular and enjoyable,” says EcoSuperior executive director Ellen Mortfield. “We’d like to work with other community groups and neighbourhoods to start up more gardens at other bus stops next spring.”
Edible bus stop gardens are a concept that started in a high-risk neighbourhood in London, England in 2012 when a small group of urban interventionists began creating garden beds along one bus route. Pop-up urban agriculture is now being seen in other cities in the U.K. and North America.
Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy is committed to creating a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system that contributes to the economic, ecological, health, and social well-being of the City of Thunder Bay and area. It is a collaborative project of the City of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay District Health Unit and EcoSuperior, funded for three years by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
EcoSuperior is a not-for-profit green community organization with a mission to achieve greater environmental stewardship in Northwestern Ontario and the Lake Superior Basin through engagement, education, collaboration, action and leadership. The group has been delivering environmental programs since 1995 and is located at the corner of Red River Road and Hill Street.