Sober Living Garden Program – A Healthy Together Now Feature

October 2022

Gardening is a wonderful way to get outside and connect with nature while reducing stress and getting in some exercise. With 2022 being named Canada’s “Year of the Garden” and food prices increasing due to high inflation rates, the Community Health and Housing Association Westman Region (CHHA) decided to apply for funding to build, plant and maintain several new raised garden beds in the compound that houses the Sober Living Program in Brandon, as well as revitalize some existing beds. Their vision was that participants in the Sober Living Program and their other programs would be involved with the building, planting and maintaining of the beds, along with CHHA staff. CHHA has had pre-existing garden beds for several years, however this was the first time they were integrated into their programming.

The goals of the program were many – including enhancing and providing opportunities for Sober Living Program participants to learn new skills such as healthy eating, meal planning, gardening and preserving food; providing low impact outdoor physical activity through the process of preparing and maintaining the garden beds; providing positive activities for program participants to interact with and contribute to their community thus contributing to their mental health.

The project was quite successful with many benefits to the program participants, as well as the downtown community. The Sober Living Program participant who tended the garden beds repeatedly commented that working in them helped him maintain his sobriety. Produce from the gardens was shared with other program participants and used for the community meal preparation of the Sober Living Program.

Partnerships with the Global Market, Samaritan House, the BNRC’s Creation Nation and the City of Brandon were strengthened and the CHHA benefited through many donations and discounts. The City of Brandon donated soil and mulch and the Creation Nation’s men’s group cut the lumber for the garden beds and Russ, the Coordinator, provided input as to how the beds should be constructed. Because of the cost savings they were able to purchase haskaps, saskatoons, three apple trees, a pear tree and an edible cactus to plant a mini-orchard, the first of its kind for the downtown core and accessible to the entire community. They also hope to extend the gardening program into the winter with the purchase of small fig trees, mini-pineapple plants, aloe vera and prickly pear cactus and a portable greenhouse. This will encourage program participants to continue to build their interests in gardening and healthy eating throughout the winter, thus providing gardening opportunities and all the benefits that come with them year-round.

Overall the program was a great success, and will be for years to come!

Interested in receiving funding for a project focused on healthy eating, physical activity, mental well-being or tobacco prevention and reduction in your community? Visit Prairie Mountain Health’s ‘Healthy Together Now’ page for more information on eligibility and how to apply.