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85 Year Old Has Worked his Garden Plot for More Than 70 Years

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OldPlot.jpg
Photo by Stuart Gradon.

Historic community garden in line for city protection in Calgary, Alberta

Kim Guttormson, Calgary Herald
September 18, 2008

Marshall Libicz stands in the garden plot he’s worked on and off for more than 70 years, strawberries, zucchini, parsnip and beets at his feet.

“It’s got a history,” the 85-year-old says of the 825 square-metre lot where residents of Bridgeland/Riverside have grown food since the 1920s. “We thought we were going to lose it.”


Wednesday, the city’s land use, planning and transportation committee voted to designate the plot a municipal historic resource.

Libicz and Mike Ricketts mobilized the community association to try to save the garden when it appeared the city had plans to sell the land.

“It’s an historic garden and we’ve kept working it the way it was,” said Ricketts, who started growing corn and other vegetables on a quarter of the lot a few years ago, after “apprenticing” under Libicz.

He adds that given Libicz’s tenure, he has been able to provide a living history of how the land’s been used over the past 70 or so years.

While most community gardens offer small plots about one metre across, the Bridgeland/Riverside garden is four long sections, shared by about 12 people. The original garden started in vacant lots behind three houses along McDougall Road N.E.

A report to the committee said the land had been purchased by the city in 1922 and used as part of the Vacant Lots Garden Club. Residents were allowed to use the vacant lots for a small fee, both beautifying the neighbourhoods and providing a food supply.

Most produce in the city at the time, according to the report, was shipped in from B.C. and was expensive and not very good quality.

The city originally had more than 3,000 lots as part of its vacant lots club — only the three in Bridgeland/Riverside remain, the report noted.

Libicz said his parents, whose home he still lives in on McDougall Road, started gardening there in the 1930s, as did he.

With plans to designate the site, which still must be approved by council, the city began helping with watering this summer, bringing a truck by when Mother Nature didn’t co-operate.

The garden, which has two composts going, also uses rain run-off from the homes that back onto it.

Link to article.