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'Massacre' at Terra Nova community garden

“It’s been happening every year, but this year has been the worst,” says Richmond gardener.

“It was a complete massacre.”

Richmond resident and gardener Nancy Chen couldn’t describe her community garden plot any other way after she found it entirely dug up last week.

Chen arrived last Wednesday at her flower planter box at Terra Nova Community Gardens to find her flowers, vegetables and plastic sticks stolen. Several other gardeners’ plots had also been vandalized.

Chen had grown a variety of pansies at the community garden and even had a small bench made from driftwood in front of it until someone took everything - including the soil.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said. “It’s been happening every year, but this year has been the worst.”

Despite enjoying gardening in Terra Nova for the past 18 years, Chen considered walking away after this incident.

“I was so discouraged that I was not going to plant any more flowers.”

However, Terra Nova’s garden community convinced Chen otherwise.

Urban Bounty, which manages the city’s community gardens, and other gardeners donated flowers and soil for her to restart her planter, Chen said.

“Everybody is so kind and supportive and it’s just amazing to have found such a community that help each other out.”

Urban Bounty member Grace Augustinowicz described the incident as “heartbreaking.”

In 2022, five per cent of gardeners at Terra Nova Community Garden reported some thefts from their plot, explained Augustinowicz. However, she noted, there are some gardeners who don’t even report incidents.

“You work hard all season to maybe grow that pumpkin or those tomatoes, and then you return and they’re gone. It’s heartbreaking and discouraging,” she said.

Not only have vegetables been stolen in the past year, gardening structures such as tomato stands and plastic domes have also disappeared.

Augustinowicz told the Richmond News the community gardens are a public place, therefore, they can’t put up cameras or fences, things that gardeners have requested.

“The public space needs to be accessible at all times, not only by the public but any other community services,” she said.

“The cameras would be a little bit of an invasion of people’s privacy so it’s a challenge we have, and the city is limited in options to enforce or protect the area besides signs and reporting.”