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Global Roots Garden
The eight Global Roots plots at our Green Barn are each devoted to particular ethnic communities with large populations in Toronto—Chinese, Tibetan, South Asian, Somalian, Italian, Latin American, Polish and Filipino. Each plot grows an immensely diverse range of vegetables and herbs, including okra, bitter melon, cardamom, chiles, eggplant and lemongrass. The gardens are tended by twenty-five seniors and fourteen youth (mostly high school students), many of whom got involved with the Global Roots project through our partnership with CultureLink, a newcomer settlement group in southwest Toronto. Gardeners meet once a week to tend the plots, socialize and cook food together.
According to coordinator Liz Curran, the idea behind Global Roots is multifold: “There are seniors from around the world here with a wealth of knowledge about growing food. Language barriers sometimes prevent that knowledge from getting out. So we wanted to draw it out in a very public space.” The gardens are designed to show visitors the remarkable variety of crops that, given the right know-how and experience, can thrive in our climate, particularly crops that would appeal to Toronto’s ethnically diverse population. “These are plants people have fond memories of but may not know they can grow here,” Curran says. The relatively tiny plots—they are each about 20 x 13 feet—also demonstrate how much food you can produce in a small space.
Bringing together seniors, many of whom were food producers in their native countries, with youth who don’t necessarily have any experience growing food, makes the exchange of knowledge even more explicit. Many of the beds are raised, allowing seniors to work without straining their backs, and most of the gardens are wheelchair-accessible. The senior gardeners have also been involved in the “New Crop Animation Project,” a collaboration between The Stop and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in the Niagara Region. In this project, the Global Roots gardeners have been taste-testing and providing horticultural assistance to Greenbelt farmers who are also raising crops—like callaloo and the ever-popular bitter melon—not traditionally grown in the province.
To listen to the stories of some of our Global Roots gardeners, visit Sara Udow's Global Roots oral history project website.