Archive for the ‘youth’ Category

Reflecting on yield, by Chimu Titi, Urban Roots Youth Program Leader

Gardeners think a lot about yield, what is it?  Quantity?  The quality? What we learned? What we shared?  As summer retreats and fall approaches we recall what went right and what went pear shaped.  We have numbers.  Over 20 lbs of fresh organic produce harvested per week and enjoyed in Urban Roots Culinary programs as well as sold at the Green Thumbs Growing Kids table by youth volunteers.  This does not include the produce harvested daily by community members.  We sold over 70 lbs of fresh organic produce at the weekly Regent Park Farmers Market.  Produce was also harvested by families during our Family Drop Ins.


But wait, there is more!!  Yes, our gardens were fruitful, we sowed, watered, tended and harvested.  Who are we?  The youth in our Urban Roots Youth Program began with, as we often find, the gregarious with the quiet, the boisterous with the contemplative and we grew together.  One of our youth never spoke. He was always present never speaking but could always be relied upon to dig in and get to work.  Our goal in the garden was never to push him to speak more and be loud as some of us naturally are.  Rather, appreciating that his consistent participation spoke volumes.  On the hottest day of the summer when his fellow youth packed it in due to the heat, he remained, silently planting rows upon rows of Lal Shak.   Later in the season community members harvested all the Lal Shak and I am certain it was enjoyed, just maybe not silently.

The garden is a space for everyone and our youth are discovering that everyone can grow in their talent in the garden.  Artists can be artists, and science-oriented youth grow in their discipline learning how to directly apply their knowledge to challenges of soil quality, nutrient cycling and water management.  Our builders use their talents to construct new beds while introducing those who have never held a drill before to the world of power tools, all in the name of building a new bed to grow organic produce with high yields.  Yield, yes, we are back to that – or we never left it  – what we learned, shared, ate, sold – all “yield”.  In a garden, the land greets the season not barren, but full of possibility.  What we put of ourselves into the land is where the yield begins.



Youth with intern, building new bed at Sprucecourt PS garden

Youth with intern, building new bed at Sprucecourt PS garden

Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and eggplants growing in the bed they built

Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and eggplants growing in the bed they built

As our growing season moves into autumn, garden needs change and allow us to reflect on what the summer yielded for each of us.  What we sowed, what we nourished, what we tended and harvested and what in turn nourished us.  The fresh air, the exercise, the social interactions and of course the delicious food.

Youth learning about hanging gardens at Rose Ave. school-community garden

Youth learning about hanging gardens at Rose Ave. school-community garden


                            Youth Culinary activity, stuffed raw peppers.

Youth Culinary activity, stuffed raw peppers.


Our stall at the Regent Park Farmers Market sold out almost every week and by the end of the season we had repeat customers coming to us for their favourite item grown by the youth actually selling it.

Some of what we had on offer this summer.

Some of what we had on offer this summer.


Young people, many of whom live in apartments and have limited space to grow have found that their ‘limitations’ in terms of space are actually opportunities.  Along the way they learned to grow and love the food that builds them.  Our Peer Mentors, having been in the program previously, help their fellow youth understand garden practices and cycles.

The cycles we observe in the garden continue in our social relationships, together learning about food, nutrition and growing while encouraging each other to offer their own knowledge, whether it is marigold flowers for wounds, or the chocolate scent of a Jerusalem artichoke flower.  The outstanding flavor of Mizuna in stir-frys.  The garden does not allow for one-way flows of information or nutrients.  We share, cycle, build and grow together. This does not stop in the garden; the youth take these lessons home, to school and to their community.

Chimu Titi, Urban Roots Youth Program Leader


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GTGG promo flyerOur new social enterprise – check out the amazing skills and knowledge now available for your home garden! visit http://www.kidsgrowing.ca/what-we-do/garden-care for more details. Email gardencare@kidsgrowing.ca to book a consultation.

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In June, our co-op students Prushodhj Niranjan and Pantha Azmee finished up at GTGK. They were superstars! And we will miss them.

Prushodhj and Pantha, both students in the Environmental Specialist High Skills Majors program at (school name), diligently took on a variety of tasks: leading workshops and teaching young children about vermicomposting, rebalancing and managing multiple composting sites; setting up and taking a leadership role in children’s and youth garden programs; garden maintenance—building beds, repairing a composter, planting, watering and caring for seedlings, and conditioning strawbales for an experimental garden bed. They really did it all, which is what they liked best about the co-op placement. (They said besides themselves only one other student in their class liked their coop placement and felt like they were getting something out of it–they looked at me and said happily, “we do something different all the time.”)

When Prushodhj and Pantha first came to GTGK, the school compost bins were suffering a lack of attention – we left our partner schools alone with the task and learned that they were not ready for that. The composts were all, to varying degrees, suffering from lack of turning, lack of proper browns, excesses of plastic and well, they stank, which a well-managed pile should not. Without complaint, Proshudhj and Pantha took on the compost project. They did independent research to find out the science of compost and then visited FoodShare for some instruction in mid-scale systems with Master Composter Mike Nevin. Back at Green Thumbs, they built up some muscles shoveling out the mass from the bins, and expertly shifted the balance to make healthy nutrient-rich humus by adding a combination of leaves, mulch, woodchips and wood shavings at three different sites. Then they turned the compost weekly. Now, all three sites are heating up and smelling earthy–they had become alchemists, turning food waste into gardener’s gold. Through it all, they learned not only about composting, but how to succeed in solving problems, and how to work with other youth and children, sharing their passion for the environment.

Huge gratitude to them, and all the best in whatever they pursue!

– Leslie


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It’s an exciting time for school gardens – please join us physically and metaphysically in our celebrations of a new season of growth and beauty! First up, today is May 24 — The First Annual School Garden Day, brought to life by our collaboration with EcoSource and the Ontario Edible Education Network. There’s a survey to fill out to help us all better understand school food gardens and gardeners, (as well as other children & youth food programs).

Next week on Wednesday May 29 is the Fairmount Park Farmers’ Market, adjacent to a school yard where a gardening project is underway. We’ll be selling some pea shoots and talking about how easy to do and nutritious they are, as well as just providing a fun activity for kids. Erin Temple, our newly minted practicum student from Ryerson University’s Masters of Health Science, Nutrition Communications will help make this event memorable.

Coming up Saturday June 1 is Rawlinson Community School’s Urban Farm Fun Fair, and we’re excited to have a table there. We’ve been working with Rawlinson’s amazing kindergarten teachers on our kinder-GARDEN pilot project, and this year the whole school has planned their Fun Fair to celebrate urban agriculture and highlight their school gardens!

On Wednesday June 19, we’ll get together with our eight Kinder-GARDEN pilot project teachers to go over the project and look at the spring season to date. This will form the beginning of a new resource guide, suited to Toronto climate and Ontario curriculum, for school food gardeners working with Kindergarteners. This project is supported by a grant from the Community Environment Fund of Earth Day Canada.

Then, Friday June 21, we’ll be offering a workshop at the Jane-Finch area Frontier College Connecting Communities Conference, where program leaders attend a free day of workshops and networking, gaining a better understanding of summer programs that meet the needs of children and youth. We’re excited to participate in the desire to support literacy – including environmental and food literacy – and detailing how the school garden can be a strong summertime asset to the community.

Meantime, the Urban Roots Youth project is deepening, and the youth involved are gaining confidence and knowledge about food growing, food systems and starting to tell their own stories. Two more summer jobs (in addition to two jobs through TDSB’s Focus on Youth) will be available and will be posted soon on our website. Funding for this program’s co-ordination has been generously provided by Telus Community Board and by the City of Toronto Recreation Grants.

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Urban Roots Youth program starting March 21, 2012. Register now! Send email to urbanrootsyouth@kidsgrowing.ca, or call 647-348-5437.

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Job Posting – Urban Gardening Program Leader, Urban Roots Youth Program
Part-time contract, March 19 to June 29: 20 hours/week; July 3-Aug. 24: 24 hours/week
Wage: Hourly $18.50, contract position.
Reports to Program Director/Volunteer Co-ordinator, Green Thumbs Growing Kids
Green Thumbs Growing Kids works with children, youth and their families to learn about, grow and prepare fresh foods, cultivated in an environmentally sustainable manner, in hands-on programs. We are excited to offer our Urban Roots Youth training and employment program for the second year. The programs take place after school from March through June and during the day in July and August. The successful candidate will have experience working with youth and a working knowledge of greenhouse and garden tasks related to food production.
Schedule: Hours of work will vary, but generally the expectation will be that the Program Leader works one eight-hour day and two six-hour days in spring, and three eight-hour days in summer.
Description of Duties:
 Manage greenhouse and garden-based programs with 12 youth aged 15-29
 Supervise and train volunteers to help run programs
 Promote the Urban Roots Youth program in the community
 Develop, test and refine curriculum relating to food systems, horticulture, urban agriculture, food justice, culturally relevant foods, and food security
 Work with partners to ensure program spaces are full
 Evaluate program with youth participants
 Evaluate and help to hire youth for summer job positions
 Supervise 4 youth during summer

Skills and qualifications:
 Must have a proven track record in supervising and engaging youth
 Must have working knowledge of composting, vermicomposting, greenhouse management, garden or farm experience
 Must have good written and verbal communication skills and a positive attitude
 Must have experience running youth programs
 Must be willing to submit to a criminal reference check for working with vulnerable persons
 Must be able to work with minimal supervision
 Knowledge of current issues in food security, food justice, urban agriculture, nutrition and environmental/sustainability education an asset
 Curriculum development experience an asset
 French language an asset
Green Thumbs Growing Kids is an equal opportunity employer and members of equity-seeking groups are especially encouraged to apply. Only candidates who are short-listed for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls please. Deadline for application: Friday, March 2, 5 pm. Send cover letter and resume to jobs (at) kidsgrowing.ca.

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how much does that squash weigh?
Food is something that is important to our well being as a necessity of life but is often not paid attention to.  I was born and raised in the city of Toronto and grew up thinking I knew everything about food and where it came from.  Little did I know that people around me and myself barely scraped the tip of the iceberg.

Growing up as a kid I had to be cautious around food due to my sensitivities and allergies.  It didn’t help that my mom would make sure I didn’t eat foods I haven’t eaten before which can be a potential allergen.  As I hit my teenage years I started to explore other foods with the support of my sister who motivated me to try new foods and to not limit myself.  With the benefits of exploring new foods there was consequences that came with it and it ended up in me lying in a stretcher while paramedics hoisted me up into their ambulance van.

During my senior years in high school I experienced a wake up call at the dentists office where I received 6 fillings in my top front row.  This is where I chose to cut out most of the foods I was eating like chocolate, candy, chips and soda.

Over a period of two and a half years, I’ve made a huge transformation in the foods I eat to assist my healthy lifestyle.  All I wanted 2 years ago was to feel better about myself, improve my asthma and find alternatives to my allergies so I didn’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.  With these goals, I’ve come a long way with doing my own research and purchasing whole foods and snacks without preservatives and additives.  The only problem I have now is the fact that I am limited on finding healthy food that is safe for me and is sustainable.

Also the opportunity last year to work with Green Thumbs and Youth Voices helped me be more aware of food security issues in St. James Town and fresh local food at farmers markets.  Now I enjoy walking into health food stores and organic markets because I feel like I am not only doing a favor for my body with high quality food but I’m also doing a favor for the environment.  Another thing people don’t realize is that by investing in high quality food now, we can limit the medical expenses in the future.

In the present, I have made a huge impact on what my parents purchase and bring home.  With my knowledge I have been able to educate them about certain nutrient dense foods and proper food preparation.  Now I find my mom buying organic carrots and organic spinach and cooking with nothing but extra virgin coconut oil.  Even though my parents don’t agree with everything I tell them I’m glad they support me in my future endeavors.  With all this previous experience, I’m excited to attend Ryerson University for Nutrition and Food in the fall to really learn in depth.  I’ve always had a stomach for good food and a thirst for knowledge.

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