Frank Mastroianni inside one of the four greenhouses that he built in the backyard of his 12th Street property. He started his first garden in the 1970s and it eventually turned into his primary hobby.

Golden Moments: Mastroianni’s retirement focused on garden

For Frank Mastroianni, what started as a small garden has turned into an impressive urban farm.

Frank Mastroianni smiles when he’s asked about his first efforts in the garden.

“The first garden I ever did was in 1978…we started a little bit at a time,” he recalled.

“It was probably 20 by 30 (feet) or something like that. Not too good.”

If his early effort was that of an amateur painter, his work these days falls in line with a Da Vinci or a Michaelangelo, a veritable masterpiece. Much more of an urban farm than simply a garden, Mastroianni maintains row upon row of crops, from potatoes and tomatoes to peppers and lettuce, all in the yard behind his 12th Street home. It wasn’t always in his plans for his garden to become this robust.

“I started small and it got bigger and bigger all the time,” he said.

Mastroianni moved to Field from his native Calabria, Italy in April of 1965. Joining him was his brother, Mario, and his mother. Frank’s older brother, Rosario, was already living here.

Those early winters were cold and difficult to handle for someone more accustomed to the climate in southern Italy. Mastroianni didn’t care for his new home at first, but he came around eventually and gradually began to like living in Western Canada.

Most of his working life was spent with CP Rail in both B.C. and Alberta, eventually leading him to Golden.

It was while he was living on Alexander Drive that he started his first garden.

Soon he was spotting what he calls “good dirt” while working for CP and bringing it home for use in the garden. Evidently, his passion was growing.

Mastroianni later decided he would build a greenhouse to help compliment his garden. Then he built another. And another.

Now the proud owner of four homemade greenhouses, the indoor shelters allow him to get the growing season started early in the spring and help him continue well into the fall. This year, with particularly mild temperatures, Mastroianni began gardening earlier than he ever has.

“This is probably the best year I’ve ever seen in the winter and the spring (for growing),” he said.

It’s clear that gardening became more than just a way for him to save on the grocery bill and enjoy fresher food. Mastroianni loves what he does, he’d have to with the amount of time he spends working on his garden.

“I enjoy every minute when I go into the garden and I see everything growing,” Mastroianni said.

With the impressive amount of food his urban crop yields, Mastroianni says he ends up sharing much of his ultra fresh produce with his friends and family.

Certainly a far cry from that small, early effort that got everything started back in 1978.