Written by Samantha Lucchetta (Dig In! Campus Agriculture Co-Coordinator)
Starting a community garden from the seeds of an idea isn’t always easy. Getting a garden started on-campus can sometimes be tough and oftentimes is costly work. This is why we were so glad that CCP gave us their support in 2018, enabling us to build two raised beds behind Campus Co-op as part of the new Youth Food Centre.
For the past ten years, Dig In! Campus Agriculture has been establishing and maintaining edible green-spaces across the University’s campus. From March until the first frost of winter, we run twice-weekly garden workdays that are open to current students and non-student community members alike. Wanting to put our heads together with other like-minded individuals, this past spring we teamed up with Regenesis, a student-run environmental organization, becoming an initiative of theirs. Through Regenesis UofT, we were introduced to the folks at Campus Co-op, who eagerly welcomed the idea of a food garden being situated at one of their residential buildings. We were very excited at the prospect of establishing another garden on-campus, where we could get our hands dirty and dig in to fresh, communally-grown vegetables.
The Campus Co-op Community Food Garden was constructed in May 2018 with the help of Dig In! and Regenesis volunteers, graduate students from the Faculty of Forestry, and Campus Co-op residents. Despite the shady location, a variety of plants flourished in these new raised garden beds. Throughout the season, volunteers who came out to our garden workdays had access to the garden, taking home free organic produce and helping to keep the gardens healthy. Tuscan kale, purple tomatillos, ground cherries, radishes, and cucumbers are just some of the vegetables that were grown at Campus Co-op. In autumn, the new gardens were shown as part of garden tours and utilized at communal cooking events. One event, which was a collaboration between Dig In!, Community Kitchen, Regenesis, Campus Co-op, and NishDish, was the highlight of the season.
I like to think that every garden is like a classroom; the seasons are your teachers, and you learn each of your lessons as time goes on. This year was a very experimental one. We weren’t sure what plants would do well at Campus Co-op, how many seedlings we would need to fill-in the raised beds, or how much we’d end up harvesting. We now have a better idea of what we’re working with, and we’re sure that we can make next year’s harvest even more successful. As a novice gardener myself, I think that I learn something new every garden workday, whether it’s about gardening in general, how to work together to make a communal space, why agriculture needs to become more sustainable, or the importance of good food in bringing people together. I’m sure that whoever comes out to get their hands dirty with us feelsthe same way. We are already sowing next year’s plans for the Campus Co-op Community Food Garden, which we hope will include building two more raised beds to double the gardening space.
Thank you again to CCP for their continued support with this project and others. Thank you also to Campus Co-op and its residents for continually being engaged, friendly, and open. And finally, thank you to all of our many volunteers who helped make this season’s events amazing.