Growing Gardens, Feeding People and Building Community

Growing Gardens, Feeding People and Building Community

September 16, 2014

With summer in full bloom, residents came together in August to share the fruits of the season at the re-opening of the Regent Park Community Garden. �

Kale growing in the garden����������������� Fresh kale growing in the Regent Park community garden.


Growing Gardens

Residents from Regent Park celebrated the re-launch of their community garden on Thursday August 7th. Joined by Moss Park residents, who also operate their own successful community garden, those in attendance enjoyed music, laughter and good food.

Little girl gathering water for plants�������

Aathavy, daughter of Nirmala, collects water to water her plot.

Many of the plots boast �fresh organic tomatoes, beans, peppers, and a variety of spices that grow two to three crops per season,� said resident and gardener Nirmala, as she showed off the many plants she has grown with her daughter.

Walking through the garden, it is hard to believe that eight months ago none of these plots were here. Inspired by the success of the community garden he worked on in Moss Park, resident Dennis has worked to support gardening in neighbouring communities as well, helping to launch gardens on the rooftop of Sherbourne Place, at the Moss Park apartments and now with the re-launch of Regent Park�s garden.

�My main thing is enabling others to act,� said Dennis.

Food insecurity� a growing issue

25 childrens plots���������������

25 garden plots shared by youth in Moss Park.

Moss Park has 45 plots, ? 43 for resident members, one for the food bank and the other shared by 25 children, each with their own square. With this garden, residents have been tackling a growing issue in their communities.

As Dennis points out, �Food security is a big issue�the way food prices keep going up it�s important for tenants to get involved.�

Food insecurity can mean different things to many people, but it often refers to a lack of access to healthy, culturally appropriate food.

By participating in urban agriculture, residents can improve food security by increasing access to healthy, nutritious food that may otherwise be unavailable to residents. As resident Mofazzal said, �I can feed my family with this garden.�

There are also other benefits. Community gardening is recognized by many police departments as an effective community crime prevention strategy, because it brings people together from a variety of backgrounds and increases eyes on the street. Studies have shown that crime decreases in neighbourhoods as the amount of green space increases. Furthermore, eating locally and spending time in green space can also help reduce health strains by reducing stress and increasing a sense of wellness among residents.

Residen's hand holding fresh vegetables�������

Regent Park resident Mofazzal, holding his freshly grown produce.

Building Community

Ensuring food security can also produce initiatives that provide residents with connections to each other. By drawing on the strengths and talents of community members, Moss Park�s successful garden is bringing people together and building community leaders.

�We use gardening to give back to the community,� said Gerald, Moss Park�s Community Garden Resident Leader.

In addition to each community garden reserving one plot of fresh produce for local food banks, Regent Park has also donated a plot to a local women�s Peer Diabetes Leadership Program, as well as sharing produce with senior residents who are unable to grow food for themselves.

�Gardening is all about supporting each other and bringing all the buildings together� said Dennis.


Three residents stand in the garden

Garden supporter Maurice-Pierre (left), with Moss Park residents Leona (centre) and Dennis.

Leona, Moss Park�s Community Garden Leader last year, emphasized the importance of everyone pitching in. �We couldn�t have made the garden without the community. The fire department, EMS, postal workers at the end of their shift, and even university students came out to dig plots and set up a watering system. Over 100 people came out to make the garden a success,� said Leona.

Joan, a non-resident living in Toronto�s west end, was also inspired to help when she found out about resident gardening communities across the city. Coordinating the donation of hundreds of flowers, plants and vegetables that were to be disposed of by garden centres, Joan worked with Resident and Community Services staff to get plants directly to residents.

�People are put on the planet to help and an opportunity presented itself,� said Joan. �Hats off to the Toronto Community Housing office and frontline staff who found time in their busy schedules to make a difference and help out.�

With the growth of the new garden, many have big hopes for its future. Along with the plots reserved for students to learn about gardening, Dennis is planning to lead workshops for local youth, teaching them about what plants to grow and how to cook with them.