Family creates community garden in memory of their son

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L&O Community farm with product
Image by Eric Lee for NPR

Every Saturday, Jenna Fournel and her family offer the produce from their garden to the local community. Thirty pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables adorn an old wooden table, whilst locals gratefully come and take their fill.

The miniature farm stand was created in 2020, during the midst of the pandemic, where neighbours could interact with each at a time when social contact was kept to a minimum.

The idea for the farm came after Jenna’s youngest son passed away in 2019. Whilst the family were grieving the loss of their son, Oli, they were touched by how neighbors rallied around.

“People brought us food for months, people checked in all the time; and I was so struck by the ways in which a community, both people that I knew but also strangers, just lifted us up.”

Jeanna Fournel told NPR

In 2018, prior to the pandemic and Oli’s death, both Oli and his brother Leal started to become interested in gardening. The two brothers planted flower seeds in their garden. “That was the first year that we had a bunch of flowers,” Jenna said.

It was Oli’s idea to cut the flowers and sell them by the curbside to raise money for the animal shelter down the road.

After Oli passed away, Jenna came across an assignment that he had completed for school. He was asked what he would do if he had $100 to spend. Oli wrote that he would use the money for the animal shelter.

“He talked about how he’d use that money to buy dog beds, leashes and food for dogs that needed homes,” Jenna recalled.

Oli’s kindhearted words triggered something in Jenna, who asked:

“We thought, what’s a way to keep that spirit of loving kindness alive in our own lives and for others?”

The family decided they wanted to give back. They expanded their garden, planting more seeds, and growing more produce. The garden was named L&O Farms after Leal and Oli.

L&O Farms has had a positive impact on the community. Locals are enjoying delicious free fruit and vegetables, including greens, eggplants, mini-watermelons, beans and peppers. People are also becoming active in their community, having conversations with neighbours they’ve never spoken to before. Oli’s mum, Jenna spoke of the positive impact it had during the pandemic:

“We had created this space for getting to know people and building our own new stories for ourselves in our lives, at a time when we really needed that, and I think everybody did,”

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