Community Gardens

August 20, 2008


The most recent edition of National Geographic magazine has a terrific aerial photograph of community garden plots in Boston, Massachusetts.  From this vantage point, they look like an intricate green patchwork quilt.  This got me thinking about community gardens and what appears to be a growing interest in growing food locally.  I would be interested in learning about experiences you may have had with community gardens in other cities or your thoughts on community gardens for Guelph.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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13 Comments on “Community Gardens”

  1. Matt Shacklady Says:

    I’m all for them!

  2. shannon lee Says:

    Hi Karen
    I was actually just searching for what was happening with community gardens in Guelph and found your blog and this entry. I was surprised in such a green city that there doesn’t appear to be a huge effort in this area. It appears there is only 2 or 3 located in Guelph. Whereas nearby Cambridge has 5, London has 17 and Kitchener Waterloo has 30, and Toronto has a wonderful 44. Not to mention the many fabulous projects taking places all over the world, and there are some terribly fascinating ones! In short i would love to see more community food security projects (gardens, orchards, community kitchens, city farming, bioshelters etc) happening here in our lovely city. Furthermore it would interest me to get involved in a fairly intensive way to see this happen. Have you considered facilitating more discussion about this with council and community members? Possibly creating a working group to gather resources and start on a plan of action? Please let me know I would love to take part. Though most people think of spring as a time to start gardens late summer and fall is actually a truly fruitful time to transplant prennials, plant trees, assess the viltality of land and the winter is a great time for planning. I am very happy to know that you are showing an interest in community food projects as they bring so many benefits to a community on so many levels. Serving the many interconnected needs of citizens from practical to social, addressing community health and environmental issues and empowering people to grow together. What a wonderful asset a concerted effort in this direction would be for Guelph! Looking forward to your response and further action! Thank you!

  3. Becky Thatcher Says:

    I was also just searching online for Guelph community gardens since I heard CBC’s radio program today (Ontario Today) which was discussing this topic. I think it’s an excellent opportunity for people to become more involved with the food industry and get back to where their food actually comes from (since I was thinking of having a focus on a vegetable garden). I wonder if one of the local schools in the south end would be interested in participating. One of the callers today on the radio show said that it was a great way for students to complete their community involvement hours. Just a thought.

  4. Nick Taylor Says:

    I have been working with a school in Guelph’s westend to create a community garden. I am interested in talking to people with experience. We hope to launch, starting small, in the Spring of 2009.

    Doing it right requires a lot of good effort, especially promoting to the neighbourhood, and getting a dedicated core of organizers and workers together.

    I’m very interested in learning how communities have dealt with preventing and avoiding vandalism.


  5. shannon lee Says:

    Hello Nick, Becky and Karen
    I have been trying to remember to check back in on this blog to see what folks are saying about urban gardens. Since my last post i have gotten involved with two wonderful initiatives happening in Guelph that i think you will be interested in. One is the Food and Education sub committee of Transition Guelph, Nick with the work you are doing i think this would be a great group for you to be part of. We are focused on promoting people connecting with and understanding where their food comes from and starting with getting food education to be an integral part of the cirriculum we believe is key! I am also working as Project Coordinator for an Urban Farming Project called Backyard Bounty that is partnering with homeowners to use their backyards to grow food that is than sold locally. Backyard Bounty also strives to help citizens understand and connect with where their food comes from. These are two awesome initiatives that are both seeking lots of helping hands, so there is plenty of opportunity to network and get involved. I would

  6. shannon lee Says:

    continued from previous post,…..oops, acciddentally hit submit before i completed that last post,, please beg my pardon,……
    as i was saying, I would love to connect with anyone interested in these initiatives or that wants to talk about other urban agriculture projects Or who has or knows people who have yard space that they would like to see used for urban agriculture! I can be contacted at 519-803-2539. Thanks everyone for being interested in this and for caring enough to be proactive about creating sustainable food systems in our community! also thank you Karen for the research paper you were part of, Growing a Sustainable City: Possibilities
    for Urban Gardening in Guelph, it will prove to be a valuable resource I am sure. Looking forward to connecting with everyone an growing our sustainable community!

  7. Gail McCormack Says:

    In addition to community gardens I have often wondered if municipalities have the power to zone land agricultural. I think agricultural land that becomes part of the municipality (through annexation), stays agricultural as longs the owner of the land keeps farming it or doesn’t sell the land. But my understanding is that the municipality now considers such land ‘urban reserve’ and once sold the zoning will change to residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, etc..but not agricultural.

    If municipalities had the power to actually zone land for agricultural purposes within the urban boundary, then opportunities for market gardeners to grow local food for a living might actually be possible.

  8. Diane Nalini Says:

    Hi Karen!

    I grew up in Montreal, which, if I’m not mistaken, has the highest number of allotment gardens in Canada. I believe there are more than 76 across the city, and over 10,000 Montrealers participate. It is always wonderful to see people harvesting their crops and tending to them with enthusiasm, all the while exchanging helpful tips with each other. Each allotment area has a fence around it, and permit holders are issued keys. A permit for an individual plot costs only about $10 annually, with an additional fee of $2 to $20 collected by the local committee. So it’s quite inexpensive. I haven’t heard about vandalism issues with this system…

    As for Guelph ideas, how about using some of the concrete space in front of the new city hall for some beautiful raised-bed allotment gardens? Or perhaps some of the land on either side of the train tracks? How about Howitt park? Though I think those would have to be raised beds, due to possible soil contamination from previous industrial use…. Just a thought.

    I’m sure there are lots of other spaces ripe for it in Guelph. My garden is too shady for more than a couple of square-foot garden beds, and I’d be first to sign up for an allotment space!

    Thanks for starting this discussion on your blog. I think Guelphites would embrace more community gardens with open arms…

    All the best,

  9. Erin R Says:

    Hello Karen,
    This is blog was the first stop in my investigation of initiatives in urban farming in Guelph. As a student at the university and fairly new to the city, I was wondering why the has city has not developed a community garden? Is there a lack of interest?
    As many people have pointed out, these kinds of urban gardens are successful in many cities and communities around the world. I have read the article posted on Backyard Bounty’s web page which was initially submitted to you several years ago. Are the barriers discussed in this paper still true today and are too large to overcome to experiment with starting a garden?
    I’d appreciate and feedback or resources you could offer to me. Thanks!


  10. ksulliva Says:

    Hi Erin,

    A community-developed proposal for community gardens was presented to the City’s Environmental Services, Community Services, and Operations committee last month. You can see the proposal here (you have to scroll through the agenda a bit.) The proposal was referred to staff to review the matter and respond before the end of 2009. Stay tuned!


    Kate Sullivan
    Mayor’s Office

  11. Laurie Pickering Says:

    I’ve been searching the internet to find out how to purchase a garden plot in Guelph. I can not find where these plots are. The internet is full of other related stuff. This is a site that popped up. I’ve typed in many variations of searching for hours. Is there any community gardening plots available around Guelph for purchase? Purhaps somewhere a list is available? It was easy to find a list for Waterloo. I typed in community gardens. Unfortunately they will not let me purchase any because I don’t live their. I’ve wasted a lot of time on the internet and phone today. I thought it would be fun to garden this summer but it’s just been dead ends.

  12. Nick Taylor Says:

    Hi Laurie:

    There are a few community gardens in Guelph. Take a look at the Community Gardens Network site –

    I am working on establishing a community garden at June Avenue Public School.


  13. ksulliva Says:

    Hi Laurie,
    In addition to the link Nick posted above, here are a couple more web sites you may want to look at:

    The CIty of Guelph has a pilot project with 4 community gardens – visit

    You may also want to visit the website of the Ignatius Centre, as they may have plots available:

    Kate Sullivan
    Mayor’s Office

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