Why we do what we do: Community Garden Edition

The end of the summer is upon us, which also foreshadows the end of the gardening season. Not to tout my own horn, but I’ve learned a few things about community gardening through overseeing the 2015 growing season of the Greenbelt Foundation's New Canadian Go Greenbelt grant. One of the grant's main purposes was to supply Chinese and South Asian crop seedlings to 14 low-income community gardens found throughout the Greater Toronto Area. 

It may be too exhaustive to list all the insights, so I’ll list only the knowledge gained in my most memorable eureka moments:

1) Crops, like humans, need water to survive. If the crops are watered, they do some alchemical stuff with the sun and soil and that’s how they grow up.

2) If you're transplanting seedlings the "leg" or root part of the plant should ideally be the end that points down, in the soil.  It really doesn’t work otherwise.

3) Most crops, like human, like to party before summer’s end, in a symbiotic fashion in which to honour our hard gardening work, they let us devour their limbs and babies.

With the latter point in mind, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation partnered with Regent Park Community Food Centre, Daniel Spectrum, Toronto Christian Resource Centre and Regent Park Community Health Centre to organize the Regent Park Harvest Festival to celebrate the bounty from the 14 gardens with community gardeners.

Naturally, the family-friendly event centred around food; the Food Centre’s Community Gardens Coordinator Ashrafi Ahmed and local community gardeners prepared an electric and delicious prix fixe meal. The menu included tandoori chicken, chickpea curry, jasmine rice and gajar halwa (which I can only describe as tasting like a pumpkin pie ice cream that melts in your mouth but not in your room-temperature hands - give the recipe a try to wow your guests at your next soiree), along with everyone’s favourite, roasted corn-on-the-cob.  

Peter Mitchell, Project Manager of the New Canadian Go Greenbelt! grant, manning the Greenbelt booth while showing off some of this season's garden harvest.

There were also a number of booths and activities geared towards children to help burn off some deliciousness. Evergreen hosted a green and yellow beans pickling workshop, while other booths offered homemade jam making sessions, henna tattoos, and information on places to go in the Greenbelt conducive to an active lifestyle. There was also a candy apple booth, and two rounds of pie eating contests… for children with high-metabolism. A special nod to local NDP candidate Linda McQuaig who stopped by for a chat with the community gardeners.

"The end of labour is to gain leisure," according to some dude named Aristotle, and the leisure witnessed was well-earned after all the hard work everyone had put in during the season. It was especially endearing to see one of the Regent Park community gardeners spoon-feeds her toddler a mouthful of chickpea curry. It was a great moment: not only because of the simple enjoyment of a mother blowing on a spoonful of steaming curry, but because of the knowledge that the dish was the result of the cumulative effort of herself and other New Canadian community gardeners. That's what the New Canadians Go Greenbelt program is all about, helping people to pass on tastes of their homeland to the next generation through the sweat and toil of their own hands.

The Foundation would like to extend a special thank you to Ashrafi Ahmed and Emily Martyn of Regent Park Community Food Centre for taking the lead in the organization and logistics of the event, Toronto Community Centre for providing the kitchen and dining space, Peter Mitchell, the project manager of the New Canadian Go Greenbelt grant; and lastly, the 14 community gardens who have generously provided a share of their harvest to make event possible.



Sam Cheuk

--Program Assistant


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