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Taco Stand Project: Ken Bedirian and the Cambridge Community Garden

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Life + Learning

  • Ken Bedirian
    Ken Bedirian

Shannon, Queen's Square | October 3, 2016

Before you ask Ken Bedirian about his garden, make sure to grab a coffee and find a comfy chair because Ken has a lot to share and it all begins with great storytelling.

Ken, a Syrian Canadian who immigrated in the mid-1960s grew up on a farm in Lebanon, studied agriculture at the American University of Beirut, and later received a PHD in Animal Science from McGill University. His specialty is bovine embryo transfer. Now retired and having transferred himself from farm living to suburban life, Ken devotes his time to his family, his garden, his community and volunteering at Idea Exchange (in no set order).

Ken’s garden, a 40’ x 40’ plot in the backyard of his home in East Galt, is a thriving patch of country in the city. From beans, beets and Brussel sprouts to spinach, Swiss chard and zucchini, everything is abloom, but his specialty is tomatoes. Three forty-foot rows give life to nearly 50 plants bearing gloriously juicy, perfectly plump tomatoes. But those are just the details, now let’s dig a bit deeper into the story.

To Ken, this small parcel of land keeps him connected to the rural tradition, knowledge and values in which he prides himself. Values like learning from one another, working together and sharing. His elder daughter, Cambridge resident Naro, named it ‘The Cambridge Community Garden’ and younger daughter Vani, an artist who resides in Toronto, painted a sign to announce the community spirit to the world. Ken supplies much of his own needs with his garden, but more than that, he supports his community by inviting neighbours in with their baskets, offering fresh produce to friends and caring for people in need.

On December 31, 2015 Ken welcomed a young Syrian refugee couple into his home while they settled in their new country. They lived with Ken until May, by which time they had mastered the bus system, obtained jobs and were financially able to house themselves. Soon after they first arrived, a second family was placed under Ken’s care in a small apartment down the street. Ken helped them register their three children in school, explore their new town, and of course, he fed them all from his garden. Now they too are self-sufficient, with some care and nourishment from Ken.

So of course, when we explained the Taco Stand Project, Ken understood immediately and characteristically he responded with a story:

“When I was a boy, there was a salesman who went from village to village with his cart. Often people had no money so they would trade goods for goods. If my mother needed a new pot for cooking, she would pick the size of that pot and the salesman would say ‘Good. Fill that pot with grain and it’s yours’.”

And of course when we ask Ken to participate in this project by sharing his knowledge and teaching others about gardening at the Taco Stand this spring, he agreed.

“Absolutely I want to be part of this,” Ken laughed. “This speaks to my heart!”

Learn more about the Taco Stand Project or volunteer to share your skills, time and knowledge. Community begins with you.