Conversations about having a community garden began in the fall of 1999. A committee was formed of stakeholders and interested people, chaired by Jude Carson, who was also chair of the Saint John Communities in Bloom committee. The problem was finding an ideal location. Bill Butler, who was commissioner of community services, suggested that the vacant field across from the Lily Lake entrance to Rockwood Park would be ideal. It already had water access, was in an open area in full view of passersbys, and it was close to bus lines.
Jude and Pam Johnston, another committee member, visited the Moncton Community Garden and spoke to its founder. A lot of research was done and contact made with other gardens to formulate garden rules and get start-up advice.
The City’s Leisure Services proved extremely helpful, providing a liaison to the committee and a location for meetings. They had the soil tested for any contaminants and had the ground ploughed and tilled. Saint John Hydro installed an extra light in the centre of the garden and Leisure Services donated an old shed, which was refurbished by the gardeners. Bill Butler helped lay out a master design for the Garden and it was also through his efforts that a deer fence was obtained.
That first season began with approximately 30 garden plots and one raised bed for the physically challenged. There are now three raised beds and 100 garden plots. The first gardeners were a keen group and met regularly for socials and garden projects, like making scarecrows and painting the shed. Peggy Purcell was one of the first gardeners, and agreed to be chair of the garden operating committee. Jude Carson continues to be involved and the Garden was fortunate to “acquire” Haleen Franklin and her husband Jonathan. Haleen had been one of the originators of the Moncton Community Garden.
With the improvements to the entrance to Rockwood Park in 2010, there were suggestions that the Garden be relocated. The site suggested was not suitable, and after Peggy and Jude met with city representatives, it was decided to let the Garden remain.
The Greater Saint John Community Garden has proven to be a tourist attraction, as buses of cruise ship passengers made regular stops. Numerous communities, such as Hampton and Bathurst, and other areas in Saint John have contacted the committee seeking advice about starting their own community gardens. The Garden has also become a multicultural community, with gardeners from many countries. Last year we had a number of families from Bhutan gardening. They shared new crop varieties with us, and introduced us to some new delicious food at a “Pot Luck”