By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
In the morning, when slugs crawl away from the large vegetable garden Margo and Andy Uyl of Clinton have planted to support FOTOCAN orphanages, Margo stomps them. “With joy,”she adds with a laugh.
The couple made the decision to expand an existing garden plot into an almost 50 by 50 vegetable garden in a fundraising goal that started last year when the couple decided to have a spring sale to raise money for FOTOCAN.
Andy, who works at Watson’s Home Hardware in Blyth, has been to Nicauragua many times to support the FOTOCAN orphanage in that country. Margot, a teacher at Huron Christian School, joined him in 2020 to meet their “God children”. The couple supports six Nicaragua orphans year round.
When COVID-19 hit and travelling was banned, many mission and support trips to FOTOCAN orphanages were cancelled and consequently, financial support began to dry up. When the Uyls learned how the orphanage was struggling for support they decided to use their skills, hard-work ethic, new home and large property to raise funds.
“Andy essentially built a grow-op in the basement,” explains Margot. Under 25 feet of grow lights and supplemental heat, the couple grew hundreds of plants and hosted a plant sale in the spring which raised $2,000. That amount was generously matched by an anonymous donor and sent to FOTOCAN.
Inevitably, a few tomato and pepper plants did not sell and Margot couldn’t bear to compost them. “I said to Andy, I’ve had a lot of time since the school closed to think. I’ve been talking to God and I have an idea.” All Andy said was, “Oh dear.”
Consequently, the couple decided to enlarge the garden and extend the fundraising effort with a sort of Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) project where Margot and Andy grow the vegetables and deliver them to customers for a donation. The donations will be sent to FOTOCAN at the end of the growing season.
“We bought a tonne of seeds and set to work,” says Margot. The result is a gorgeous garden overflowing with goodness. Beets, corn, zucchini and carrots fill the rows. They struggled with beans and potatoes this year and had to fence the garden from hungry rabbits. A vole-repellent machine was purchased to prevent plant damage. Slugs are serious pests, along with squash bugs and Margot has become quite fond of squishing non-beneficial insects. She also keeps a paintbrush on hand to help the zucchini pollinate because of the lack of bees. They plan to add a beehive to the property next year.
It’s a tremendous amount of work but Margot and Andy share the task together. “He comes home from work, we eat supper and then we work until dark.” The couple made the decision to eliminate television and internet from their lives so screens don’t usurp their time and attention. They are used to working hard and Margot shows me her wiry muscles which are quite astonishing for a woman over 60. “I’m strong,” she says simply. Not only that, she has boundless energy and enthusiasm for the project and life in general, it seems.
The proof is in the garden which is neat, tidy and marvellously productive. For more information on the donation-driven market garden fundraiser, Margot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. ◊