Meet GROWcery: ProSafe's Partner That Grows Our Communities, One Garden At A Time

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

GROWcery Food Network Society is one of ProSafe’s newest partners, and we are ecstatic to spread their message of communal spirit. They are an up-and-coming non-profit organization that promotes growing food and proper nutrition. One of its programs provides participants with employment-based skills training by engaging them in the construction and operation of community gardens.

Participants within GROWcery’s Job Creation Program (funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction) learn the fundamentals of carpentry, gardening, and horticulture while simultaneously acquiring certifications including Occupational First Aid and heavy equipment training. All of these skills are currently being put to good use as their team constructs a therapeutic garden in New Westminster.

GROWcery's team hard at work.

We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Jeremy Dyson, GROWcery’s Program Manager. With years of non-profit experience under his belt and a penchant for the outdoors, his commitment to helping people build careers and promoting locally grown produce is a force to be reckoned with.

This is what Jeremy had to say:

What is GROWcery Food Network Society all About?

Growcery Food Network Society is a non-profit organization seeking to empower individuals and help society make educated choices regarding what they grow and eat. We are composed of a board and a programs manager in the office, and an experienced gardener and carpenter in the field.

Although we are relatively small at this stage, we offer a reasonable breadth of programming. GROWcery currently operates a Job Creation Partnership funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. Through this project, we provide six individuals the opportunity to acquire skills and experiences to help them find jobs at the end of the program.

To reach that goal, we are building a community garden within the City of New Westminster. As this project proceeds our participants learn carpentry, landscaping, and gardening skills. This is where ProSafe steps in – we partner with you guys to enhance the variety of job-ready skills and increase the employability of our participants.

Taken together, the experiences and skills training help develop personal and professional growth opportunities for our candidates.

What inspired you to join GROWcery?

It all started when I was working on another job creation partnership with a different organization. I was working on something entirely different from a community garden – this one had a strong legacy component, which is central to job creation projects. The team were constructing First Nations racing canoes in a work project – the idea was to work on something fun, increase capacity in local racing clubs, bring attention to Indigenous traditions, and reinvigorate the sport of paddling.

When COVID-19 hit I decided that I wanted to participate in food security initiatives and programs. This line of thinking led me to the idea of building gardens and educational initiatives, and opened my eyes to how they could serve as learning opportunities for the community. I joined GROWcery Food Network Society to head in that direction.

Carpentry skill development is one of the New Westminster project's key components.

What other projects is your team working on?

In addition to the community garden, we also received a Work Experience Opportunities grant from the Province of B.C. through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. This grant is aimed at providing people with disabilities and those who face multiple barriers to employment with meaningful work experiences. For this project, we are hiring five individuals from New Westminster on 12-week work assignments that will be correlated with our community garden initiatives. Participants will receive training for groundskeeper positions – in this way they acquire new skills and work experience while also supporting the garden creation and maintenance initiatives.

Mason bees are super-pollinators that thrive in specific conditions - the same conditions that GROWcery aims to facilitate.

We are also embarking on a pollinator program that centers on mason bees. They are native bees that don’t produce honey. Instead, they are super pollinators that can help flowers and plants flourish. While that is obviously a massive benefit for any garden, the bees are tricky to look after and do require a certain amount of support. Right now, we are building specialized mason bee homes in four different locations across the lower mainland.