This year while we were away on summer holidays, I left our garden in the care of a neighbourhood 13-year-old as well as our Garden Guru across the road. I returned to find it much as I left it, growing steadily, but I figured there’d be a few more tomatoes to show for the two weeks. I was a bit disappointed by the barely ripened full size specimens I found, plus a handful of cherry tomatoes, but put the lack of production down to the hot, dry summer we’ve had and my patch’s stubborn streak this particular year. But over the last few days, I’ve been delighted to discover that my neighbours took me up on my offer to eat what they found while we were gone. Seems our various friends and neighbours enjoyed our tomatoes quite a bit. There was even some guerilla watering by an older gentleman down the street.
The idea that our garden is a community project is a total delight to me. It’s been like that from the beginning when the soil was first delivered and everyone pitched in to shovel it into the raised bed. And since it’s right on the sidewalk people can watch its progress closely—and obviously take an interest in its success.
This communal ownership is a bit like the school garden, though, of course, the school patch is far larger in size and conception. Before I went away, we had a work bee. A handful of people came out and we spent a happy couple of hours weeding and pruning and digging, then gathered for a small feast of pesto, tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce. It was a celebration of our efforts and the productive possibilities of the city and our school.
This week, there’s another kind of celebration with the Urban Agriculture Summit being hosted in Toronto. They’ll be farmers and beekeepers, school gardeners and social housing policy thinkers, academics and fruit gleaners all gathering to talk about the pleasures and potential of growing food in the city. I’ll be joining them with copies of What’s for Lunch? at Toronto City Hall on Thursday night as part of a book-signing event alongside the awe-inspiring urban ag pioneer Will Allen (whose new book The Good Food Revolution is just out), Jennifer Cockrall-King (Food and the City) and others. The event is free so come join me if you can!