July 2017 – Jim Odell

Long Walks Lead to the Farm

When Jim Odell moved from Moncton, New Brunswick to Ottawa in 2013, he was drawn to the open spaces of the Farm during his long walks through the city. Now settled in his Westboro neighbourhood, Jim’s weekly schedule includes at least two trips to the Farm. On Tuesdays he can be found labouring in the Shelterbelt and the following day, he tends the iris and daylily beds. Jim also helps at Friends’ events whenever he can.

When he discovered the Friends of the Farm in 2015, Jim was drawn to the Shelterbelt team by the prospect of planting trees. During university, he worked in forestry one summer, and later spent several years on the landscape construction crew at the University of Calgary. “I thought my old skills would come into use and that I would get to plant trees” he says of his decision to volunteer in the Shelterbelt. Although Jim was disappointed to discover that the team doesn’t actually plant the trees, he was happy working outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, doing some of the heavier work, including lawn cutting and tree trimming.

Joining the iris and daylily team was a bit of a gamble, however. He was motivated by memories of his grandmother’s glorious gardens – “they would have given the Ornamental Gardens a run for their money” – and her passion for hybridizing irises. Long on memories but short on gardening skills, Jim admits to being so embarrassed on his first day – “I couldn’t tell a plant from a weed” – that he spent his entire shift pulling dandelions from the grass. Two seasons later, he’s not only developed gardening skills but finds himself “doing stuff you wouldn’t have paid me to do as a kid” and finding it enjoyable and satisfying.

Mary Ann Smythe, June 2017. Photo by Polly McColl.