Utne Blogs > Environment

An Organic Community Transformation

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: Environment, green living, gardening, community, community building, urban landscape, neighborhoods, gardens, Toronto, Joe Clement, Spacing, Julie Hanus,

peapodsWriting for Toronto’s Spacing, Joe Clement shares a genuine community-building super story: the organic transformation of the city street he grew up on into a robust gardening district. Clement himself got the ball rolling. As a young gardener who quickly “outgrew” his parents’ yard, he began asking neighbors if he could help them convert their front lawns into cultivated spaces. What happened over the next 20 years ought to inspire novice and pro gardeners alike—anyone planning on putting seeds in soil this spring:

Slowly but surely more and more neighbors began relinquishing their prized turfs in exchange for a garden, and that’s when something very interesting began to happen. The neighbors began interacting with each other beyond the perfunctory hello and goodbye while coming and leaving. The gardens were acting as social facilitators, bringing people out of their homes to tend to their yards and discuss gardening tips and strategies for expansion or plant sharing.

These conversations continued and expanded into broader social interactions. Soon neighbours were helping each other tear up their lawns, till the soil, and reconfigure their yards for both flower and produce production. Many of the not-yet-converted yards began sprouting carrots and corn and eggplant along with the foxgloves and dahlias.

Boulevard stripes were tilled and converted to gardens, making room for more vegetables. The neighbors are now tackling the backyards of homes rented to college students and converting them into productive gardens. Thanks to the dedicated work of several residents in particular, and the support of the rest, this street now produces enough organic produce to supply the Sorauren Farmers’ Market on a bimonthly basis.

Source: Spacing (article not available online)

Image by Mzelle Biscotte, licensed under Creative Commons.