Last summer, volunteers from South Etobicoke helped gather air quality data as part of the INHALE Project. All of this data is now available on an interactive map that shares the results with the community to spark conversations about a range of clean air solutions. Urban gardening initiatives are one example that help combat air quality issues and support community food needs.
Urban gardening is an affordable way to offset carbon emissions. Gardeners in urban areas plant in a variety of areas including backyards, public green spaces, and even small balconies. Urban gardening produces local, inexpensive, fresh produce that is free of pesticides and can be eaten, sold, or donated close to where it is grown. Urban gardens are green infrastructure that benefit the environment because they improve air quality, cool the city and also help retain excess storm water.
This summer in South Etobicoke the Gardens Pods Project, spearheaded by the GARDENS Advisory Council, is a new initiative making gardening more mobile and accessible in the community. Funded by TD Bank, Humber College and the Trillium Foundation, in collaboration with LAMP Community Health Centre, this project created 10 small raised gardening beds (pods) throughout South Etobicoke.
These pods are planted and maintained by families or groups in the community and include a mix of herbs and vegetables. Half of the produce harvested goes into the community through organizations like the Daily Bread Food Bank, LAMP Community Health Centre and Women’s Habitat, and the other half goes to families who help maintain the pods. So far this year, 27 kg of produce has been harvested, with more to come as fall approaches.
LAMP is offering gardening workshops throughout the summer for anyone interested in cultivating their green thumb. Covering everything from seeds, healthy soil, indoor gardening, and even edible weeds the goal of the workshops are to provide knowledge to help with a simple green solution.
“It seems like a small thing given the ecological issues on our planet but we have to keep pushing in these directions...keeping change within our reach, keeping it local, step by step, collectively we can have an impact.”- Sandra Van LAMP Health Promotion Program Coordinator
Urban gardening is a simple green solution that individuals can take on in their own backyards. Debbie Nolan, a long time resident of Long Branch, has always had a passion for gardening. In 2004, Debbie decided that she wanted to grow more food than her backyard could accommodate, and a neighbour offered Debbie her yard. In 2012 another neighbour offered up their property for planting, and her small backyard garden expanded into a green business venture.
Debbie gardens for profit, selling her produce at local farmer’s markets (the farthest she travels is 11 kilometers), and she sees urban agriculture as a way to use available land to produce jobs and local food for the community. She hopes to get a large plot of empty city land to garden, but has faced difficulty getting permission to use city land for profit farming.
“By using land that would otherwise be empty grass fields you can put energy into the city and all of the positive outcomes would return to the city as well”. -Debbie Nolan
Debbie is an excellent example of how anyone with an interest in gardening can be successful, even on a small scale. A patch of land or some plants in your backyard can reduce food costs for your family and also contribute to greening your community, so why not give it a try.
Katie is a summer student hired as a Community Outreach Coordinator in South Etobicoke