Growing up on a farm in Italy with his grandfather, who always had a large garden, having a green thumb is in Angelo Ligori’s genes.
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Having grown up on a farm in Italy with his grandfather, who always had a large garden, a green thumb is in Angelo Ligori’s genes.
So as the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on, it didn’t take much convincing for Ligori to take the lead in creating the Angelo’s Gardens co-operative in the backyard of his expansive property on Grande River Line, just west of Chatham, that backs on to the Thames River.
“The idea is a rent-a-plot,” said Ligori, adding there are some options on what people can do.
“You can either plant your own (vegetables) and look after it for a fee or I have some platinum members. I look after most of the plots and they simply come and get their veggies once a week,” he said.
Pat Riopel, her husband Enrico Magnani and their children, Bruno, 2, and Valentina, four months, are members of the co-operative.
Riopel, who met Ligori at a Chatham YMCA fitness class, said she suggested he start the co-operative after seeing his own large garden.
“I think when COVID hit, he needed a project,” she said. “As ambitious as he is, he got himself into a big project and everybody’s happy about it – it’s amazing.”
Riopel said her family is a platinum member, but she hopes to get move involved in the planting and harvesting when their children get a little older.
She is impressed with the results.
“I didn’t think the vegetables could get that big.”
Ligori said about three-quarters of an acre was planted for this growing season but noted there is room for more members.
He said the “coolest part” for him is sharing his knowledge of gardening.
Alex Wingrove, who owns and operates Country Market Garden across the Thames River on Riverview Line, has enjoyed learning from Ligori as they share duties in running the co-operative.
“I’ve learned what a small idea can turn into if it’s someone like Angelo, who’s passionate about it and works hard at it,” he said.
Wingrove, who has seen his own business grow in five years from a “hobby garden” into a full-fledged business that supports a family, recalled when he saw Ligori’s post on Facebook about the co-operative.
“I thought it was just going to be a simple, rent some land and harvest crops, but it turned into something much better.”
He said there’s been a lot of knowledge shared among the small community of gardeners in the co-op.
“I’m always happy share information and teach people how to grow things,” he added.
Tricia Weese and her son Brennan, 8, are among the families that have joined Angelo’s Gardens.
“We thought it would give us something to do for the summer, and it would be a good learning experience for everybody,” Weese said.
She grew up on a farm where there was always a vegetable garden, but she said there’s just not enough room where they live in the city.
Brennan proudly chimed off the vegetables they are growing, which includes tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, beans, cauliflower and peas.
However, Brennan also noted a reality of gardening in Southwestern Ontario.
“I am getting mosquito bites,” he said.
But he’s also making a few bucks, having sold $51 worth of vegetables via YouTube.
Angelo’s Gardens has given Mary DeKoter a chance to get back into growing her own food.
Having grown up with a father who was an avid gardener, growing potatoes, beans and tomatoes, she said she decided to “just get right in there” when she heard about the co-operative on Facebook.
She shares some of her bounty with the food bank.
DeKoter hopes more young families will get involved in Angelo’s Gardens.
“It’s a lost art, but I think it’s coming back because the price of food is going to go up with COVID,” she said.