Zdena and her farm gate stand.

Gardening: Proudly a product of Whonnock

It is a community that seems to attract free-thinkers, people who care about the environment who aren’t afraid to speak out.

There’s something about Whonnock and the people who live there that makes them think a little differently about the world around them.

Perhaps it’s the lack of water, or the lush surrounding forests, or the bucolic beauty of the many farms.

It is a community that seems to attract free-thinkers, people who care about the environment who aren’t afraid to speak out and, yet, are equally ready to get their hands dirty and fix the problem themselves.

One such resident is Zdena Novy, a retired Whonnock elementary teacher who, along with her husband Jiri, have been developing a small organic produce farm (Novi Organics) on Garibaldi Street.

They have lived in Maple Ridge for 37 years now, and although you may know Zdena from the farmer’s market or the produce stand that sits out front of their rural home, she actually credits her dad and grandfather for her gardening aspirations.

Zdena was born in Prague, Czech Republic and spent much of her youth at the family’s ‘Zahradka,’ or garden allotment, outside the city, where they grew roses, vegetables, strawberries and fruit trees.

It was her ideal rural retreat.

That joy of growing your own food stuck with her after immigrating to Canada in 1969 and continued through university and the younger years of parenthood, with her and Jiri settling on Maple Ridge as a permanent home through the most random of decision making processes – closing your eyes and poking a finger at a map of the Lower Mainland.

They have lived at their current home for the past 18 years, during which time they built a working organic farm.

There are rows of healthy gooseberries, currants and strawberries, as well as two coldframes that help extend the growing season.

Large swathes of garlic, peas, potatoes, beets and carrots are lovingly grown in symmetrical beds, all being replenished with the rich compost – seven bins worth – that she allows the worms to process.

A farm gate cart parked outside their home bears the daily offerings of fresh garlic, carrots, lettuce, herbs and flowers – all grown without the use of pesticides.

The abundant wildlife I saw that morning – rabbits, garter snakes, robins nesting in the pear tree – all attest to the fact that there is nothing being sprayed on this garden that they would need to worry about.

Her home also continues to be a touchstone for former students, one of whom, Natasha Wright, has illustrated a children’s gardening book – Rhys and His Pot of Gold – that they are both hoping to have published in the near future.

The Rhys in question is Zdena’s grandson, a budding gardener and potato connoisseur who I had the pleasure of meeting on my last visit.

Then there’s her pride and joy, a colourful new chicken coop designed and installed by Pascal, Amanda and Tyler Shaw as a retirement gift.

But, then again, that’s typical for Whonnock – people just seem to do the right thing instinctively.

Zdena continues to inspire her former students by showing them “that you can create your own job if you want to.”

She also produces a line of artistic ‘dream boxes,’ in which people without any garden space can grow some herbs or tulips to brighten their own little corner of the world, or share it with someone they love.

So the next time you go to the farmer’s market and bump into Zdena, be sure to say ‘hi’ and remember that everything you see, from the tiniest sprout to the elephant garlic and the person who grew them, is proudly a product of Whonnock.

 

– Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

 

Just Posted

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, vehicle crashes

Happened in early evening, injuries unknown

Court supports Maple Ridge role in tent city

Rejects Pivot application to allow people to return

City video updates Maple Ridge Leisure Centre re-do

Rusty support columns delaying project by a few months

Maple Ridge councillor back at work

Duncan away because of car accident

Seniors conquer the arctic

Pitt Meadows guide led 35-day trek

VIDEO: Wet weather kicks off Lower Mainland toad migration

Thousands of small western toads were making the trek from pond to woods

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

Serious police incident unfolding at Sts’ailes near Agassiz

Small reserve near Agassiz surrounded by police vehicles, helicopter, ERT

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

RCMP release sketch of suspect in SFU assault, appeal to witnesses who helped woman

The RCMP want to talk to two women who helped the victim after she got to the parking lot

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

Most Read