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Fort York Community Garden
In partnership with community members and program partners, Evergreen, a national charity that makes cities more livable, has created a number of community gardens across Toronto. The gardens weave together urban habitat restoration, food gardening, art, and community development to help people to celebrate the special places where they live, work, and play.
The Fort York Community Garden was established in April of 2008 as a result of a three-year Walmart-Evergreen Green Grant and matching Trillium Foundation grant awarded to The Friends of Fort York. With their location just north of the north ramparts of the fort proper, within the 18 ha Fort York National Historic site, the Community Garden plots are a tangible connection between the fort and people in the neighbourhood. Membership in the community garden is intended for Toronto residents living within 3 km of the garden with no other access to planting facilities. The garden currently contains 21 raised beds of varying sizes that are further divided to create 38 gardening spaces. To reflect the diverse nature of the Fort York neighbourhood, some spaces are assigned to individuals, some belong to community groups such as Sketch and the Harbourfront Community Center, and some plots are designated "communal" for the sharing of culinary and medicinal herbs among the gardeners. At the close of 2011, membership stands at 83, including 32 children enrolled at the nearby City Kids Daycare, and the waiting list include 25 names.
During the formative years, coordination of the gardening spaces, the supply of materials, and instructive workshops were provided by the Evergreen Foundation and its staff. In 2011, the garden became self-governed through the creation of a volunteer board that coordinates key aspects such as membership, communication, and finances. The Friends of Fort York again assisted the Fort York Community Garden in 2011 by applying successfully for a second Walmart-Evergreen Green Grant to fund the construction of a handsome new garden shed that will keep tools and other materials accessible and protected from the elements. The grant allowed the gardeners to retain a contractor, who has erected a spacious wooden building whose details echo the buildings within the fort, and thus adds to the cultural landscape of the Fort York National Historic Site. Finishing touches, such as staining the shed to match other buildings within the fort, should be completed by spring 2012.
Traditionally, two celebrations are held during the planting season. A community gathering with garden blessing opens the gardening season, and a potluck meal celebrates the harvest. At these events, the joy of growing irresistible and delicious produce is shared among the gardeners, who take pride in their unique location, and enjoy being part of Fort York's outreach efforts. Gardeners have also volunteered their time in the Officers' Mess Kitchen Garden established at Fort York in 2010.