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Local men's clubs celebrating success of community garden with dinner

TRURO - Over the span of two decades, two men's groups have come together to help grow and harvest more than 200,000 pounds of fresh produce for the local food bank.

For more than two decades, members of both the Old Barns Men's Club and Knights of Columbus have donated time and energy at a community garden in support of the Colchester Food Bank. Pictured in last year's garden include, from left, Old Barns Men's Club members Garry Matthews and Gordie Miller, and Knights of Columbus members Joey Hurley, John Heukshorst and Alden Forbes.

Plans are already underway to do so again between the Knights of Columbus and Old Barns Men's Club.

"For me, it's to watch the crops grow and to get a decent crop out of it," said John Heukshorst, a Knights of Columbus member who instigated the project in 1990 that benefits the Colchester Food Bank. "My parents immigrated here from the Netherlands when I was 11. I would hear stories about the days when my mother and father went through the war years. My mother always told me about people coming from the city in droves to buy grain from my father. That always stuck with me."

Heukshorst said he was never one to go hungry when he was younger.

"That's why I'm so adamant about feeding the ones that desperately need it," he added.

The project first began with bedding plants at the then-Nova Scotia Agricultural College where Heukshorst was employed, however, he had an eye on some land owned by Jeff Yuill.

Yuill's son-in-law was a member of the Knights of Columbus and approached Yuill about using the land.

"At first, he said no, but then he said he would do something better, that he would get the Old Barns Men's Club involved," said Heukshorst, adding Yuill was a member of the men's club.

"He donated the land and there's the connection."

For more than 20 years, the two clubs have spent countless hours of dedication to the project, which sees crops such as potatoes, peas, cabbage family, carrots, sweet corn, cucumber, squash and turnip planted.

The location varies from year to year due to crop rotation, however, Heukshorst said half of the upcoming season's vegetables will be planted on his property in Beaverbrook.

"There is some satisfaction to helping others," said Jack Johnson, a member of the Old Barns Men's Club that has been involved in the project for almost as long as Heukshorst. "We're trying to teach the younger generation that it is alright to give something back. Sometimes they need to be reminded how well they have it."

The community garden will begin the first of May with cabbage family transplants at Heukshorst's place.

"We select crops for a full season. It's based more of on a home garden, but a bigger scale," Heukshorst said.

"We don't have a goal as to how much we want to harvest," added Johnson. "We just take the biggest crop out that we can."

The biggest crop the garden has seen was two years ago when 44,480 pounds was harvested.

"Usually it's about 25-35,000 most years. It's all weighed when it's delivered."

The first shipment gets sent out around the third week of June, with harvesting going until October.

"One of the biggest problems we have is that when we harvest at the peak, we have three half-tonne truck loads of leafy produce, but don't have a cooling system," Johnson said. "If we had some way of delivering it to some cooling system, it would be much better. With some produce it doesn't matter, but it does with the leafy produce. It's quite the task."

Despite the delivery issue, the men still take pride in their garden and will celebrate another year on Wednesday with a dinner.

"One of the plusses is that we have a relationship now between the two groups that we wouldn't have had otherwise," said Johnson.

Their dinner at the Old Barns Church will be to say thanks to those who have helped with the project once again, and to see what needs to be changed for this coming season.

"Every project is a learning exercise," said Heukshorst.

With an aging membership with both groups, the men are hoping more people are willing to lend a hand. Anyone wishing to volunteer time with the community garden can contact Garry Matthews at

Twitter: @TDNRaissa


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