Piper & Oliver at the Ottawa St. Farmers' Market
Q&A with Oliver Allen-Cillis
Oliver Allen-Cillis loves his garden-- and vegetables for that matter. When asked, he had a hard time naming a vegetable that he didn’t like. A refreshingly unusual predicament for a seven year old.
Located in downtown Hamilton Ontario, the project started a year ago and has become a sort of passion project for the compassionate grade-schooler. Deciding to donate 100% of proceeds made from sales at the Ottawa Street Farmers’ Market, Oliver along with his 5-year-old sister Piper, spent their weekends selling a variety of tomatoes and peppers for a good cause. With the news of a grant available for urban gardening projects by Nature’s Path Organics, the Allen-Cillis’ saw an opportunity to grow the garden that the whole family had grown to love.
With a goal of helping youth charities, Oliver’s Garden was awarded the top prize of $20,000.00. The Allen-Cillis’ plan to continue helping youth with the new funds. I had the chance to sit down and speak with Mr. Oliver Allen-Cillis one evening last week
Oliver in his garden
Carla: Why did you start your garden in the first place?
Oliver: Because I like it. Because I like to see the vegetables grow.
Carla: What is your favorite vegetable?
Carla: What kind of peppers? Hot? Red? Green? Yellow?
Oliver: Red peppers.
Carla: Do you have a least favorite vegetable?
Oliver: Hot Peppers! 2 different kinds of hot peppers!
Carla: Why do you like growing vegetables?
Oliver: Digging up the ground and putting all the extra stuff in it and turning it up for next year.
Carla: Where did you learn how to grow?
Oliver: Mom and Dad – they like to do it too.
Carla: What did you grow this year?
Oliver: Pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, and basil.
Carla: How big is your garden?
Oliver: Most of my backyard is a rectangle and there’s fence around it so the dog won’t go in and eat all of it.
Carla: I had a garden in my backyard this year too – but the squirrels ate all of my cucumbers.
Oliver: (laughs) well one thing about your garden is for the squirrels-- you should put a fence around it. It’s a good idea; my dog won’t even go in.
Carla: Well that’s great advice, next year I will put up a fence. Thanks for the tip, Oliver!
Carla: Do you know what the Greenbelt is?
Oliver: It’s farm country… Ugh…I can’t remember…
Carla: No, you’re right! That’s a big part of it! The government protects it so that it will always be farm country and we will always have local food. A lot of endangered species live there too – and it’s where we get fresh, clean water.
Carla: What’s your favorite thing about the Greenbelt?
Oliver: Playing outside and running around in the sun.
Carla: Why did you want to raise more money for your garden?
Oliver: For local youth to have food.
Carla: We think what you’re doing is so fantastic and that you’re an inspiration at 7 years old
Oliver: Thank you.
In the background 5-year-old Piper says, “take a bow” to Oliver. (I hope he actually did.)
Carla: Is there anything that you want to tell me that I haven't asked you, Oliver?
Oliver: Yes. I want to do some good for the community and make sure that kids are healthy and strong.
Stacey (Oliver’s Mom): I think Piper wants to say hi
Carla: Hi Piper! Do you think your brother is cool?
Piper: Yes, hi… I like pumpkin pie.
Carla: That is one of the best kinds.
Stacey: Piper was the PR at the vegetable stand this summer.
Carla: It sounds like she’s pretty good at it
Piper: Take a bow.
Carla: Yes – take a bow, Piper. Stacey, is there anything that you would like to add?
Stacey: Yes. This is really about going back to basics and farming. We need the next generation back in the dirt. If you do it with your kids and start them doing it young, it will be second nature for them when they’re older and they will pass it on to their kids…hopefully.
Oliver and his Dad showing us just how big their garden was
Why is it that kids just get it? As an adult, sometimes hearing a child speak about something they love can give some simple, honest truths and change your perspective. The Allen-Cillis family plans to donate the money to local youth charities around the greater Hamilton area.
Everyone has probably heard of the old adages: “If you want it done right, you have do it yourself,” or “Hard work pays off,” or how about this one: “You have to lead by example.” All of the above, apply. Great work, Oliver & Piper!
--Carla Balabanowicz, Communications Coordinator