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Occupy Gardens Plants Again!

by Mari IMegan Kinch

A City of Toronto worker throws out food from last years garden, planted on Mayday.
A City of Toronto worker throws out food from last years garden, planted on Mayday.

 

On May Day last year, the local food security organization, Occupy Gardens, risked arrest to plant a free community food garden in Queen’s Park. The small garden was planted to raise awareness about the unfairness of the current dysfunctional food system which places profits above the needs of people: as food prices go up and living wages fall, those who can afford it are able to purchase more and better quality food, while those who can’t are denied this fundamental of life and forced to buy unhealthy cheap nutrition-deprived junk.

Last year, the United Nation’s right-to-food envoy visited Canada and concluded that “One in 10 [Canadian] families with a child under 6 is unable to meet their daily food needs. These rates of food insecurity are unacceptable, and it is time for Canada to adopt a national right-to-food strategy.” The Canadian government criticized the Envoy for being “ill-informed” and “patronizing,” and in doing so, revealed its stance on food security in Canada.

Occupy Gardens chose to plant its free community food garden in Queen’s Park as a statement on the inadequacy of government action on food security in the city. The organizers hoped that the Garden would inspire communities to take the food problem into their own hands and build their own local  free community food gardens.

The garden flourished through the summer, and was looked after by hundreds in the local community who came together to build the soil, seed, plant, weed, and water the garden. In late September, on the eve of the planned Harvest celebration, the City of Toronto ordered the Garden’s destruction. Richard Ubbens, City of Toronto Parks Director, said in an interview that the garden was being removed because it was “installed without contact with Parks, Forestry and Recreation community garden or operations staff,” and that the city didn’t know who to contact about its removal. However, Occupy Gardens organizer, Katie Berger, stated that the Occupy Gardens had pictures of a city worker inside the Parks Department holding a sign with their number on it. It remains unclear why the City would allow the Garden to grow undisturbed for five months only to throw out all the food right before it was to be harvested.

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Before there was a thriving garden, then there was dirt.

Jacob Kearey-Moreland, organizer with Occupy Gardens, expressed frustration with the absurdity of the situation: “We are experiencing a “glocal” food crisis, where more and more people are lining up at food banks for kraft dinner and peanut butter, waiting lists for community gardens are growing, food prices rising, and our leaders are nowhere to be seen. Rather they are hiding behind their desk ordering the workers to destroy whatever hope we have left.”

Fortunately, the Garden was only a small part of Occupy Gardens’ work to place the power to create healthy food back into the hands of people. Occupy Gardens has a free food for all project, which mostly focuses on gleaning, but also teaching foods skills to people that have been lost over time, including fermentation and canning. Occupy Gardens has also initiated a local “seed library” to share seeds, and has a community garden (with permission) in Scadding Court.

Free community gardens is one way in which people can work together and literally serve one another, especially as it becomes abundantly clear that we cannot rely on the government or the capitalist food industry to meet our needs.

To help feed the movement contact: occupygardenstoronto@gmail.com

 

This article also appeared in BASICS


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Megan Kinch (Megan Kinch)
Toronto Ontario
Member since December 2009

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is a writer and editor with the Toronto Media Co-op.

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