Why Urban Gardening? Building Food Security, Friendship and Community
I love seeing this contrast between gardener Davina’s ceiling of cucumber plants and the high-rise infrastructure in the background. This varied landscape carries a long history of growing food in cities on Turtle Island and in modern Canada. At the community gardening sites managed by the Thorncliffe Women’s Committee, we offer a space to continue this tradition of urban agriculture and to cultivate relationships with the land and our neighbors. Our organization’s mission that seeks to create healthy and vibrant communities by providing opportunities for newcomers to Canada is integrated within a rich tradition of community development that centers food as a medium for connection and solidarity.
The ongoing stewardship and innovation of Indigenous societies; the diverse contributions of Black communities; generations of settler migration, many of whom arrived as farmers and gardeners; and the ongoing migration of new Canadians from all corners of the globe, have introduced new ways of sharing food that are invited to grow at our garden projects. For many of our gardeners that have arrived in Canada from different areas of the world, our projects offer a space to nurture ancestral relationships with their home countries by growing staple foods, and to build a sense of home through the inclusive social network that is at the heart of our grassroots efforts. This 2020 season, our participants include families from the Philippines, Pakistan, and Syria who have worked to create a productive garden filled with vegetable varieties from different parts of the world. Bitter melons, a key ingredient in many dishes in the Philippines that has become prohibitively expensive in Toronto’s grocery stores, is grown for a low cost by our gardeners. This exercise allows gardeners to meet new friends and share their heritage with others. Our gardeners describe this space as a site of “therapy,” providing both relaxation and energy through garden labor.
Operating at the grassroots level, our gardens are sustained by the ongoing dedication of our gardeners, volunteers, staff, and all Thorncliffe residents who provide their support. We practice urban gardening to connect and engage; to collectively survive and thrive in our city spaces. Urban gardens breathe new life into seemingly forgotten spaces. Through our creative practice, collaboration, and hard work, we transform unused areas into “people spaces”. Observing the green canopy of Davina’s garden in the foreground of high-rise infrastructure allows us to imagine new ways of making our living spaces into “home