First up is the Garden's president Marcel Belanger.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the Brewer Park Community Garden, chances are you have come across Marcel Belanger. Standing no taller than 5’2’’, this avid gardener and devoted member is at the garden everyday talking to his tomatoes to make them the envy of the whole community.
Marcel has been gardening for 71 years. At the age of 8 his parents took him to a small plot on their farm on the Gaspe Coast and said, “This is your space. You don’t take care of it, you don’t eat.” It was this incentive that made growing vegetables one of his life long hobbies. On his family farm they grew mainly root vegetables due to the cold climate and the possibilities for storing them in their root cellar through the winter. They grew winter and summer turnips, beets, potatoes, and carrots. Apples would be wrapped in newspaper and stored in a barrel which lengthened their life span. It was the chore of the youngest siblings to go through the barrel in November and December and pick out the rotten ones. Smoked herring and salted cod would be given the same treatment.
Living in a remote, rural community, they were required to order in any fruit such as bananas, melons or oranges. Broccoli and cauliflower were considered the rich people food and were never seen at the kitchen table. What the family grew and were able to grow in their environment was what they survived on.
Over the years he has learned a lot about how to effectively use our short growing season. He says crop rotation and taking care of your soil by fertilizing it, is by far the best thing you can do for your garden. Crop rotation, in particular, allows the soil to stay rich in nutrients and provide a healthy bed for plants. He makes references to Russia and the Southern United States whose big farms have run into problems for not utilizing this essential practice, one that is helpful for both large scale and small scale gardening.
Most recently, Marcel has also learned the value of a wagon. “When you get to a certain age, you need some help,” he says, despite the fact that only a year ago you would find him cycling 50 kilometres a day. These days, gardening at Brewer Park is his daily workout regime.
This season, Marcel has done a four tier system in his plot. On the top layer in baskets and upside down hanging pots he has beans, with tomatoes sprouting from the lower layer. In the soil of his raised bed is beets, carrots, tomatoes and lettuce. Then, his lowest layer beside his plot, is potted potatoes. He occupies all the space his plot gives him – in the air, down below, and in the middle.
Article photo by Ashley Prince