Gardening with purpose

PROJECT ABUNDANCE: | Dan Cebuliak is challenging the way people garden.

Dan Cebuliak screens topsoil in a residential backyard that he is turning into one large garden.

Dan Cebuliak screens topsoil in a residential backyard that he is turning into one large garden.

Dan Cebuliak has been busy converting a residential backyard into a garden in the heart of Port Alberni. But his idea is so much more than growing a few vegetables.

The importance of Cebuliak’s Project Abundance “is to show how much abundance of vegetables a garden can produce,” he says. “This year I think I’ll be hard-pressed for 3,000 pounds. Next year I think I can get 8–10,000 pounds” out of a single backyard.

Food is only one part of Cebuliak’s equation: the other is creating jobs, and ultimately an alternate economy.

There are thousands of people on income assistance and not enough jobs to go around. People are going hungry, said Cebuliak, who is part of Citizens for a Local Economy. He would like to see people on income assistance helping with these gardens so they can trade labour for food.

“The more people that get involved the more we can start looking at an alternate currency,” he said.

“The whole concept is to make a person’s cash stretch further.

“Call it a ‘thrive currency’.”

Cebuliak kicked off Project Abundance after a resident—who wanted to remain anonymous—came forward and offered his yard. The man had gardened at one time but was no longer able to keep up with it, and thought it would be a good way for Cebuliak to start.

There were already 22 garden boxes built, but they were hiding among three-foot-high weeds. Cebuliak started clearing out the weeds in mid-May, and by June had already planted in most of the boxes and come up with a plan for more.

“I hope to be up to 34 boxes by next spring to get everything planted,” he said.

He has planted beans, zucchini, cucumbers, kohlrabi, peas, lettuce, radishes, spinach and carrots and has hothouse tomatoes growing in the greenhouse.

The carport will be converted to a potting shed, and Cebuliak will put up a second greenhouse.

He has six rain barrels to hook up. He spent $20 on seeds, and borrowed more from the seed library at the Port Alberni public library. The CFLE will hold a fundraiser to help with costs.

The project has “very little cash outlay,” Cebuliak said.

“We’re creating what we can with what we’ve got.”

Cebuliak said each backyard garden could use about three people working it.

“If you could get 1,000 yards, and get three people per yard, that’s 3,000 people working right there,” he said.

Estimating each yard’s yield to be about 6,000 pounds, and keeping in mind those who work the yard are entitled to some of the yield, “that’s six million pounds of groceries,” he said.

Cebuliak has already heard from another neighbour near the first yard who has offered his backyard for a Project Abundance garden. Cebuliak hopes to start converting it later this summer, and is looking for more participants in the program. He can be reached via e-mail at cfle@outlook.com.