Stepping into Parkview Neighbourhood Garden

Parkview Neighbourhood Garden was established in 2008. (Photo credit: http://tcgn.ca/garden/parkview-neighbourhood-garden/)

Parkview Neighbourhood Garden was established in 2008. (Photo credit: http://tcgn.ca/garden/parkview-neighbourhood-garden/)

Some of my fondest childhood memories are with my grandparents, surrounded by their beautiful garden. I still remember our summer visits when my sister and I would head straight to the raspberry patch to pick and eat all the berries we could manage. To this day, we both think that the relish they made with ingredients straight from their garden can top any store-bought product. 

For most of my adult life I have lived in condominium buildings. For many of us living in a Toronto condo, gardens and other green spaces are things that we feel we need to forgo. But these spaces are important; they feed us, they provide us with hobbies, entertainment and exercise, they are beautiful to look at and bring us joy.

Their existence, however, is being  threatened as financial gain for privatized businesses is increasingly at the heart of city planning, promoting urban sprawl within our neighbourhoods.

Community gardens are our way to fight back. Within a Willowdale residential neighbourhood, located on the lot beside the John McKenzie house is an organic-market garden called Parkview Neighbourhood Garden. Parkview Neighborhood Garden is volunteer-led and produces organic food for the community to enjoy, provides skill-building workshops, as well as donates proceeds and produce to foodbanks, neighbourhood food programs and other charities.

An organically formed mentorship committee meets in the winter to plan for the spring, summer and fall months (this includes what to plant, planning special events, recruiting volunteers and developing marketing and publicity strategies).

One feels an immediate warmth when stepping into the garden. There is so much to notice and explore: bees and butterflies surrounding the flowers deliberately planted to attract them, patches of vegetables, herbs and berries, historical buildings and volunteers in the garden weeding, planting, watering, and harvesting.

The volunteers are truly at the heart of this garden. They create a welcoming space that is rich in knowledge, experience, and invite the community to use the space in whichever way we may need. For some, it is to buy (very) affordable, organic and local produce. For others, the garden is a space to enjoy the beauty of nature and simply to unwind.

As Michel Klamph, a long-time volunteer and member of the mentorship committee, highlighted the garden is also a special a space for children to learn where our food comes from and to explore and discover nature hands on – with or without their own backyards.

The Parkview Neighbourhood Garden has created community. Volunteers come from all different walks of life; from a high school student completing community hours, to a newcomer seeking a sense of community, to experienced gardeners. Are all welcomed. This is a space where differences are valued and utilized.

During my own time at garden I met S.K. Anuradha, who visited the garden after only two days in Canada while visiting her son from India. When she inquired about how to volunteer, the answer was to simply show up. This system, free of administrative steps, works to create a feeling that this garden is all of ours to share, protect and use - a sense of belonging.

Parkview Neighbourhood Garden would not exist without the initial and ongoing support of Councillor John Filion work on highlighting on the importance of green spaces in city planning benefits the city and its residents

When I asked the volunteers what they wanted to make sure people understood about the garden, the conversation always came back to the people at the center of it. Nan Davey, a decade-long volunteer herself, is an example of how volunteers are the catalysts of the garden’s history.

This is a garden full of stories, memories and wonderful individuals who have created an oasis within a truly special community.