GTGK: January and February updates galore! Plant Nerd alert!

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Oh boy. It’s not quite gardening season (although we do have our onion and stevia seeds planted indoors!) and already we’ve had our hands full with various events, presentations and programs, not to mention grant writing and seed inventory! Eeeeee!

On January 27, I went out to Ajax to present on a panel discussing engagement with newcomer youth.

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) organized this overarching conference on community engagement and settlement issues. Recommended by a Kitchener-Waterloo public health nurse, I was invited to participate on a panel to discuss our youth programs: issues, challenges, and strategies used to engage people in the community. It was interesting to learn about different programs in the GTA but also ruminate over common challenges together. As it goes, even successful programs struggle with the youth outreach piece (more on that later!). I also was able to participate on a workshop around positive spaces, particularly in the context of LBGTQ people in immigrant and settlement communities…

CASSA Conference on community engagement

Sunday presented at the Growing A Greener Future from Field to Table conference, organized by FoodShare, on school food garden models. She discussed the various GTGK school garden models but also talked about the school gardens in California and the UK. There were some other interesting workshops on aquaponic systems (on a small-scale — not like the commercial-scale that Growing Power has set up!). I was pleased to learn about the Scarborough youth project run by Ziadh Rabbani from Seed to Table. Started last year, it’s always great to see new projects in other locations and see how they incorporate food gardens and cooking into their programs. Yay!

I also attended Meal Exchange‘s Social Mixer at 401 Richmond. The idea of the mixer was to bring people together with different skill sets and experiences, and get them to simulate a speed dating scenario…so we got to spend 5 minutes with a new person and than switch! Fun times.

Seedy Sunday on February 13th at the University of Toronto‘s Hart House was also a huge event. Organized by the Toronto Community Garden Network, it is an annual eco-fair and seed exchange event, with many heritage seed vendors, organizations, delicious food and children’s activities. In fact, it sometimes seems it is the one event where we get to reconnect with fellow community gardeners we scarcely see once growing season is in full bloom. It’s a great place to not only exchange seeds, but also exchange growing tips and learn about some other new variety. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of varieties of plants we have…and needless to say I was an over excited plant nerd  and fleeted about like a bee, and managed to exert all my energy to the extent I needed to go home and have a nap.

As for our Urban Roots greenhouse program. The pea shoots were a hit!

All the participants took some shoots home to eat, after snacking on them in our program. So far we have done germination tests, botanical drawings and plant propagation.

Most participants were skeptical about having to sketch plants. But with the help of Rebecca, a student at Rosedale Heights, people were able to see the benefits of sketching…as it forces you to note the littlest details of plants, which helps you identify varieties (A good thing if you’re lost in the woods or you happen to be walking about in the city, and see a tasty snack like mulberries or Saskatoon berries or wood sorrel). In addition it shows you how plants are very complex biological organisms with different needs and preferences. Plants are awesome!

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This week is our second Growing Up Together teacher workshop organized with FoodShare and Toronto Public Health! The focus will be on season extensions and promises to be a bucket (of wormy!) fun. We are currently at full capacity!

Thanks for reading and I hope you didn’t mind the cheesy garden puns strewn about in this blog entry. It can’t be kelp-ed (wah wah wah!).

Are you ready for March (or mulch)? Am I ready for March?!?!?!?!


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