The students of the English classes at Dixie Bloor -Fieldgate Plaza location, have again successfully grown a community garden at Forest Glen Public School. The students, all newcomers to Canada, started their garden in May. They divided themselves into two groups for the two plots and arranged their own schedules to maintain the garden. This year the students grew squash, kale, tomatoes, sunflowers, calendula, peas and beans. One student said: “We enjoy it because many of us had a garden in our home countries.” This initiative is a great opportunity for the students to practice speaking English during their garden work.
Since gardening was an activity the students loved, Joyce Vlachos, Administrator of the English classes, looked for ways to involve them with a community garden. She sought collaboration with Kat Gibson ofEcosource Community Gardens, which is an environmental education charity in Ontario. After this collaboration was cemented, Maria Vahrusev, English class instructor, volunteered to spearhead this activity. Maria said: “After an initial meeting with Ecosource, they provided us with seeds and took us through an orientation session where they trained staff and students on the use of tools, tracking, watering and weighing the harvest among other interesting topics.” It takes about four months, between May to September, for the garden to develop from seed to harvest. The plots then remain dormant over the winter.
Usually the harvest from a community garden is given to the food bank but Maria Vahrusev arranged that since many of our students use the food bank, when the harvest is collected, they share it with their classmates .” The students often bring their children with them. A parent said: “It is wonderful to see our kids watering the plants and taking photos at the garden.” Community gardens play a vital role in building sustainable local food systems, providing access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food, and creating resilient community spaces. To grow them requires planning, hard work and team effort but they also bring cheer and confidence, thus building a caring community.