Summer memories: Learning new skills and meeting the people in the Greenbelt
February 28, 2023
I grew up in Bradford, surrounded by the Greenbelt so I’d gotten used to seeing Greenbelt signs along the roads and highways. They almost blended into the landscape after so many years of driving past them. The Greenbelt logo had become for me as much a part of the surrounding area as the farms and streams. I thought I was familiar with the Greenbelt Foundation, but I actually knew very little. As part of the Environmental Visual Communication program at Fleming College in partnership with the Royal Ontario Museum, I completed a summer placement in 2022 as a Communications Intern with the Greenbelt Foundation.
Before my placement, I thought the Greenbelt Foundation only focused on land conservation and preservation. As it turns out, they do so much more."
Before my placement, I thought the Greenbelt Foundation only focused on land conservation and preservation. As it turns out, they do so much more. When I’m asked about my placement, I tell them about the ways the Foundation works to support local farmers and agriculture, promote recreation and appreciation for natural spaces, and build climate resilience for Ontario communities. I was under the impression that the Greenbelt only consisted of untouched forest and undisturbed land, but 40 per cent of the land protected by the Greenbelt is active farmland. There are also extensive bike trails, hiking trails and discovery routes to help residents and visitors explore the natural beauty and culture of the Greenbelt and its residents.
Grain farm in the Greenbelt
My focus during the placement was primarily on the agriculture side of the Foundation’s work. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to four Greenbelt farmers’ markets to document the food and meet the growers and customers. The vibrant range of produce available caught me by surprise. When I look back at the photos I took, what immediately stands out are the bright colours and the crisp freshness that imported produce simply can’t match. In the Greenbelt, we have very versatile land and fertile soil that is capable of growing a wide array of fruits and vegetables. I had no idea we were able to grow such a diverse range of food locally: from berries I’d never heard of, to huge heads of cauliflower. Even the pickiest of eaters will be able to find something locally grown that they’ll enjoy.
When you go to a farmers’ market, not only do you find high quality produce, but you also meet and support local farmers and businesses who make their living by caring for the land and contributing to our rural economy. Community building is a large component of farmers’ markets, and a meeting place for some of the most passionate and interesting people from the local area.
I had the opportunity to assist with the Foundation’s Women in Agriculture campaign, taking photos of the women we featured and behind-the-scenes photos of their farms. The campaign runs every October for Women’s History Month and highlights some inspiring women from the Greenbelt who are making contributions to the agricultural sector. Working on this project was an incredible experience. I met two strong, funny, trailblazing women with unique perspectives and stories to tell. As a woman myself, it was very inspiring to see them thriving in careers where we are underrepresented and historically undervalued, and I hope their stories will inspire other women. I also got to visit two very different farms – one farmed grains and the other farmed vegetables – and learned so much about farming. Despite technological advancements, farming is still a very physically demanding job. The amount of time and toil that go into growing the food we eat is truly astounding. The health of the soil is vital for a good yield, and the weather needs to be cooperative as well. Farmers do more than put food on our tables; they are stewards of their land and an essential part of the health and well-being of the communities that they serve. Climate change and environmental degradation are significant threats to farms and food security, so it is vital for the Greenbelt Foundation to continue supporting farmers in protecting and preserving their land.
Liz Lambrick, 2022 Women in Agriculture
I started my placement expecting to learn camera techniques and on-the-job skills. But between attending farmers’ markets and assisting with the Women in Agriculture campaign, I got to meet some of the wonderful people who keep the vibrant culture of the Greenbelt alive and learned more about the Greenbelt than I could have imagined. From the passionate staff at the Foundation to the farmers persisting despite growing challenges and the women eschewing traditional gender roles, some of the most inspiring people I met are the seemingly everyday folks who make the Greenbelt community shine brighter. Seeing the passion that they put into their work was incredibly encouraging and will be a cherished memory from my time with the Greenbelt Foundation.
Kayla Moran was a placement student at the Greenbelt Foundation during summer 2022 from the Environmental Visual Communication program at Fleming College in partnership with the Royal Ontario Museum.
To read more Stories from the Greenbelt, click here.