Seniors Day: Making salsa and growing connections in Richmond

With National Seniors Day on Oct. 1, The News checked into a very special social club growing arms and legs in Terra Nova

Some were busy scrubbing vegetables in the sink, a few were efficiently chopping tomatoes on the kitchen island, while one was at the stove, using a big wooden spoon to gently stir a giant pot of home-made salsa, packed with home-grown produce.

Out in the garden, the powerful scent of fresh cilantro filled the air as two of the group put their shoulders to the wheel, so to speak, crouching down low to harvest the herb, presumably to flavour the aforementioned salsa.

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In both scenes, there was more than industry taking place; there was chatter, conversations swirling and rebounding off different personalities; there were connections being founded and cemented.

Suffice to say, there was more to gardening and cooking at the Greenhouse Social Club, a sponsored program for seniors at the Sharing Farm Society in Terra Nova.

And with National Seniors Day on Oct. 1 almost upon us, the Richmond News checked into the club to find out who was making the salsa and harvesting the herbs.

“I heard about it through a family friend. I’ve just retired and wanted to volunteer somewhere that had a really strong community purpose,” said Doris Bruce, 62, who joined the club in the spring.

“Plus, the camaraderie is great.”

A pair of senior-aged volunteers, who are part of the Greenhouse Social Club, harvest herbs in the Sharing Farm’s garden. - Alan Campbell/Richmond News

Fellow club member Margaret Schmidt, 67, a recent retiree who moved to Richmond last year from Nanaimo, has a penchant for weeding, of all things.

“We plant seeds, harvest, etc, but my particular fondness is for weeding; it’s very calming and relaxing; it’s good to see it finished,” said Schmidt, who lives in a condo, where she has a small garden plot she calls her own.

“I’m going to have a coffee with one of the ladies (in the group). She is between jobs right now and my background was in helping people, particularly moms on welfare, find jobs.”

Bruce said the club is a great way to meet people and to find out about them. “When you ‘work’ alongside them; you find out where they’re from; do they have a garden, that sort of thing. You get talking to people. It’s human nature.”

Gretchen Gerish, the Sharing Farm’s community coordinator, said an extra $12,000 in funding from United Way and Active Aging BC has enabled the program, in its second year, to expand.

“We were able this year to put on a shuttle from the city centre and it also allowed us to provide a lunch,” said Gerish.

“In the height of summer, we had 30 to 40 of them out here; the shuttle was making two runs.”

Gerish said the seniors are not just a lot of fun, they bring with them a “super positive energy” that’s not always apparent in other groups.

“With some of the youth or corporate groups, they sometimes forget they’re coming to a working farm, whereas the seniors have no problem getting their hands dirty,” added Gerish.

“Also, they bring with them a lifetime of skills, such as carpentry. One of our guys built up a flower bed, another knew there was a store closing and got cheap flowers and bedding plants.

“Before you knew it, an ugly little corner of the Healing Garden was transformed.”

And although the club only officially runs once a week on a Tuesday, many of the members take the opportunity to volunteer on Thursdays and Saturdays.

The club will, however, be closing soon for the season.

“I’m going to be disappointed,” said Bruce.

“I’ve really enjoyed this and I feel as if I’m part of something and doing something good for the Sharing Farm.”

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