Building communities one sprout at a time

“Eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture.” (Wendell Berry)

Community gardensIt is easy to take the modern food landscape in Canada for granted. Where our grandparents might have rejoiced in the appearance of clementines during Christmas, our supermarkets demand no such choice. Where food used to ebb and flow with the rhythm of the seasons, thanks to globalization, modern consumers can get nearly anything at any time.

In many ways this can be considered progress, but supporters of the local food movement have become increasingly vocal about how the seasons anchor us to community and nature. Many children in particular, have no sense of the incredible journey undertaken by the humble apple or their favourite box of cereal. Food, like so many aspects of our lives, is a mystery veiled behind brands, long distance commodity chains, and many levels of processing and transportation.

You may not be willing or able to give up the convenience of the grocery store, but there are many ways to reconnect yourself with the agricultural act of eating. The Halton Food Council (HFC) has been involved in supporting community gardens through the Halton Community Garden Network. In addition to commissioning a policy scan and an advocacy plan, we hold regular workshops that can teach you how to become a more effective gardener. For those with backyard space, go ahead and turn some of that lawn into a garden. For everyone else, you no longer need space. Many municipalities, churches, private land owners and businesses are recognizing the positive impact that gardens can have. Whether you want to improve your knowledge and skills, meet new friends, get some green exercise, or volunteer your time with a “grow to give” garden, there are more options today than ever before. Follow the link to see what is available near you, and continue reading for some amazing volunteer opportunities to inspire and reconnect.

Art in the GardenArt in the Garden

For many children food is something you buy at the grocery store. It arrives, as if by magic, and has little to do with the annual drama of agriculture. At the HFC, our recipe for sustainable food systems starts with learning at a young age. For this reason, we are pleased to be entering our second year of an exciting collaboration called Art in the Garden, an innovative partnership between ArtHouse, Halton Community Housing Corporation (HCHC), Oakville Galleries, Burlington Art Gallery, Mes Amis Catering, and Community Development Halton that is sprouting green thumbs and growing healthy relationships to food. Our goal is to link mind and body through a process of cultivation that utilizes the power of art and gardening to help create a vibrant community for members of the HCHC complex at Margaret and Maurice and Walkers Fields. This year we are excited to be expanding the offerings to new communities. Follow this link for more pictures and information about Art in the Garden.

Check out the video Oakville Matters (Episode 4) where Mayor Rob Burton interviews representatives of the HFC, Food For Thought and Food for Life about food security and the role of food literacy in creating a more resilient local food system

Blueberry FieldsBlueberry Fields

Some people look at a patch of grass behind a non-descript strip mall and see nothing. For Ken Stockstill and his team at the Upper Oakville Shopping Centre, this was an opportunity to feed their community and make a real difference. After approaching the HFC last year with their vision, a careful plan was made and a beautiful new fence built on a grassy knoll behind UOSC. Home to a patch of blueberry plants, the 5000 square foot garden will feature (20) 8x12 foot raised beds and help provide the community with a chance to grow and share the fruits of their labour.

Unlike traditional allotment gardens that assign space to specific gardeners, Blueberry Fields takes the concept of community gardening to its purest form. This tiny urban farm will provide volunteer opportunities (and veggies) for eager green thumbs, but the real goal is to feed a deep and hidden hunger in the community. All produce will be donated to local charities such as Home Sweet Hope and Kerr Street Mission, and volunteers can feel good that their time is literally feeding people in their community. Food banks are always low on fresh produce, so this is an excellent opportunity to support a healthier community.

The HFC is proud to support this initiative and will host a number of workshops here this summer to help maximize the amount of fruit and veggies grown. The footprint may be small, but the impact of urban agriculture initiatives stretch beyond the thousands of pounds of veggies that will grow there this summer. We often think about community as a noun: a description of a place. In reality, community is a verb: it is something we do, something we create when we come together. Community gardens give people a chance to learn about the simple joys of placing seed to earth. They are a place where labour and love mingle with weather and soil, and they can teach us the true meaning of nourishing community.

Stay tuned to our website, blog, and newsletter, as we will be sending notes from the field regularly this summer. And consider signing up to volunteer your time for this worthy endeavour. Together, we can nourish healthy communities.