Together, Patrick Grose and Trevor Troyan have a combined nearly 20 years of contributing to the Harvest Garden at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport in support of Harvest Manitoba. They play a big part in the longtime employee-led initiative of growing a vegetable garden on the YWG campus to help fight hunger in the community.
Each summer, staff from nearly every Winnipeg Airports Authority department pitch in to produce potatoes, onions, carrots and beets for food banks across the province – something that was harder to do this year with COVID-19 gathering limits in place. To ensure the tradition continued, the airport’s two-person groundside maintenance crew took on the extra role of planting the garden, with the help of a few dedicated volunteers.
“It truly is a team effort,” said Trevor Troyan, Groundside Maintenance Specialist. “Everybody around here understands how important the garden is to the community. It’s a great thing to be a part of. You’re doing a good thing which makes it that much more enjoyable.”
Since the garden started in 1997, thousands of pounds of vegetables have been grown at the airport. This year’s harvest is expected to push the all-time total past the 65,000-pound mark. Each spring, before they order the seeds, the groundside maintenance team prepares the 4,000-square-foot plot by adding soil and tilling it. They’re also instrumental in cleaning up the garden in the fall after all the vegetables are collected.
“We always get bugged by people for gardening tips,” said Troyan. “I’ve always had a green thumb but it’s usually the other way around. I go ask my mom stuff about gardening.”
The biggest question the team had to find an answer to this year: how do you properly care for your crop during a summer of intense weather? This growing season was one of the most challenging for the groundside maintenance crew when it come to maintaining the Harvest Garden. Not only did they have to battle record-breaking heat but there were also grasshoppers and dry conditions to deal with.
“It was the most amount of water we’ve used in a single year that I can remember,” said Patrick Grose, the airport’s Groundside Maintenance Foreman who’s been tending the garden for just shy of a decade. “It required constant watering and a lot more work than the past.”
By mid-growing season, the weather had already claimed some of the garden’s onions and carrots. However, Grose and Troyan weren't ready to throw in the shovel. With some creative thinking, they built an irrigation system to help provide equal water coverage, ensuring another successful harvest this fall and setting up the garden with an enhanced system for years to come.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to the people that need it the most,” said Grose. “It’s why you try so hard and don’t give up no matter what Mother Nature throws at you. It’s extremely rewarding to see all the boxes of vegetables loaded into truck each fall, knowing we made an impact together.”
Faces of YWG is a profile series on the people working around Winnipeg Richardson International Airport who help Winnipeg Airports Authority go above and beyond.