Heirloom tomatoes and memories of gardens past sprout to life in the village
By Kristian Partington
Decades ago on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh (East Pakistan as it was then known) Mohammed Kashani would often be found tending his quarter-acre garden. Teaming with fruit trees and vegetables, the small plot of land kept his young family comfortably satisfied throughout the year and he looks back on the peace he found working the soil there with fond reminiscence.
Sometimes when he gets together with his fellow gardeners at the Village of Erin Meadows in Mississauga where he lives today, the stories of those days will come to life again. His hands may be a little less strong today and his fingers a little less nimble, but when they come into contact with the fresh soil that nurtures the seeds he sows, the feelings are very much the same.
“I found it very relaxing,” Mohammed says, describing the hours he used to spend in his garden as a younger man. There was a boy who would often show up to help him, Mohammed recalls, and “when he grew up, he became the head gardener of the Romanian embassy.” Some of the finest fertilizer to be found in the area would make its way to Mohammed’s garden thanks to the man he once mentored.
To be able to once again tend young seedlings alongside horticultural therapist Nancy McPhee and his fellow Erin Meadows gardeners gives Mohammed a great deal of comfort. Nancy has been a fixture in the village for eight years and the same pleasure Mohammed describes is what brings her back week after week.
Nancy once said that her day job as a specialist in landscape horticulture wholesaling pays her bills and “feeds my mortgage,” while time spent at Erin Meadows “feeds my soul.” The work of the horticulture group today, however, now feeds a fund that supports village residents, thanks in large part to the success of the annual plant sale each spring. What began years ago as a small sale of donated seedlings is now a large event featuring hundreds of plants all grown within the village. The group collectively decides which seeds to purchase and they all play a part in nurturing them until the sale. This year’s event, to be held near the Victoria Day Weekend in May, will feature heirloom tomatoes almost exclusively. People are now placing orders to be sure they get the high quality plants, and the group is proud to be able to serve a niche market.
But beyond the sale, the benefits found in the horticulture group centre on the interactive nature of the program. Residents gather together regularly, discussing seeds or soil while telling stories of their days in gardens past. That quarter-acre plot is still vivid in Mohammed’s memory, and the love he put into the treasures grown there still pours into the seedlings he grows today.
That is the true beauty of this group.