BLR community gardeners believe in tomorrow

It all happened very quickly, explained Alecia O’Brien of Palmer Rapids. Although the County of Renfrew announced its Community Gardens grant scheme this spring, she only heard about it on Valley Heritage Radio in June. She immediately approached the Township of Brudenell Lyndoch and Raglan (BLR) who quickly agreed to support her application for funding. O’Brien and Heather Phanenhour wrote and submitted the paperwork which earned an award of $10,000 for a Community Garden project in BLR. Since then, countless volunteer hours have been spent developing the approximately 1.5 acre site between Palmer Road (Hwy 515) and the Madawaska River.

The L-shaped plot needed a lot of work – from clearing and levelling to fencing and planning how best to utilize what had formerly been something of a dumping ground for road-building debris. But the location was great – walking distance to seniors housing, village shop, school, community centre, municipal building – plus the property was near the river with a natural stream / drainage ditch down one side and it already boasted an apple tree, some raspberry bushes and an asparagus patch. 

“Before” garden. Photo submitted.

Volunteers get to work

BLR assisted officially in helping secure the grant, but there has been unofficial help too as BLR staff and councillors have volunteered their own time and resources to assist in the project. The grass was cut courtesy of BLR Fire Chief/Facilities Manager Jordan Genrick and summer students, and Councillor Trevor Lidtkie brought equipment to clear the lot and level it for the raised beds. Genrick also helped build the beds. 



Generosity of donors greatly appreciated

Trevor Lidtkie volunteered time and equipment to clear the plot.

O’Brien said there have been many donations, starting with the property itself which was donated by Norman Lentz and Kim Mantifel. Timber for the raised beds was donated by Camp Walden, David Phanenhour and Tom Bekaris; volunteers have built the beds. Litdkie plans to use sawdust on the paths among the beds. Other materials were donated by Andrea Budarick, Maggie O’Brien, and Alecia O’Brien (water tank, gate). Katie Smith of Kate’s Cute Creations in Windsor sewed facemasks for gardeners in all sizes, using garden-themed cloth (photo below). The  contributions of all kinds from every donor has made a big difference because O’Brien said at mid-August that the only materials and labour that had to be paid for were to construct the fence, but the soil budget was “maxed out” with stone, mulch, topsoil. Volunteers plan to build a stand for the water tank to provide a gravity-fed water source for the garden. She looks forward to vertical growing along the fence, and plans to use timber between the raised beds and the fence as a framework for coverings when frost protection is needed. Joanne Hartwick painted the garden sign, and brought some coffee husks from Madawaska Coffee Co. as well. Various donors have already provided transplants.

New fence at left. Timber for raised beds, water tank, and gate were donated.
Alecia O’Brien points out the natural stream on one side of the garden.








Acknowledging the late start this year, O’Brien said everything grown in 2020 will be donated to community programs: Seniors Collaborative Kitchen, Seniors Luncheon and Food Bank, depending on how much is grown. She said, “The funding requirement is we must grow food this year.” With some transplants and what is already on site, along with late season crops O’Brien says they will easily fulfill that requirement. The volunteers aim to keep the garden simple and easy to use. Another priority is to keep it accessible as much as possible. Once the paths are all level, residents are welcome to visit the gardens just to look, or to work. O’Brien is pleased that it is close enough for seniors to come over as well.

Welcome to all volunteers

O’Brien said, “The group is open to all ages and all skill levels. We still need some skilled builders to construct a stand for the water tank, shed for the tools and water pump and more raised beds. There is still planning and building to do over the winter so that 2021 is a bountiful year.” So far, the BLR Community Garden volunteers include Kirsten Batsford, Lynn Beauchamp, Heather Faraday, Jordan Genrick, Trevor Lidtkie, Kelly MacLeod, Sarah Mantifel, Krisie McCormick, Alecia O’Brien, Heather Phanenhour, Lori Phanenhour, Ken Seafield, and Gloria.

To join the BLR Community Garden volunteers or to offer any type of assistance for the project, please contact either:

Alecia O’Brien at 613.758.3419 or email

Jordan Genrick, BLR Fire Chief/Facilities Manager, at 613.758.2016 or email at


Coffee husks donated by Madawaska Coffee Co.
Veggie facemasks donated by Kate’s Cute Creations, Windsor.
Jordan Genrick (l) and Alecia O’Brien install the sign


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