Guest post by Michelle Delaney from Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers (TPUF). Michelle is co-founder and lead organizer of TPUF, a resident-lead group working to revolutionize community access to safe, affordable and locally-grown food — and over the past few years, it has become so much more. Read about the important work TPUF is doing to increase food security, educate new generations, create community and reforge lost links between people and the natural environment.
Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers (TPUF) is a resident lead group who has been working towards addressing food security in Thorncliffe Park for 8 years. As the years pass our project has expanded to two 1/4 acre gardens and 25 fruit trees which are all located between 8 different high-rise and low-rise properties. We are working towards expanding our gardens with our pollinator habitat project. This habitat will restore selected spaces in Thorncliffe Park area that are overgrown with invasive species of plants into pollinator friendly habitats to support local biodiversity. It will provide Thorncliffe Park area youth and adult volunteers with space, material resources and training in naturalistic garden spaces.
Our gardens are open to the community for those who want to come work with us or even just to come to enjoy the beauty. Parents come to teach their children how food is grown and neighbours come to socialize and get some fresh air. Living in a dense high-rise community there is a lack of activity and outdoor space. These gardens target both of these issues as well as creating ease of access for children and seniors as they are close to home. The project supplies over 50 families with organic vegetables for 5 months of the year that help to supplement grocery bills which is important to this low-income community.
Video feature of Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers. View on Youtube.
This video was created by Toronto Urban Growers for Urban Agriculture Week 2021 and it was also featured in our Groundwork for Change series about bridging the rural-urban divide.
Over the years, we’ve seen a shift in the residents who participate from being strangers to friends as the garden is a place where we can easily learn about one another. The project has provided opportunities for community members to give back to their own community. Everyone from seniors in their 90s, adults, to youth trying to better their lives, to kids and babies have all been involved in the gardens one way or another. It has impacted mental health by addressing isolation and by connecting to nature. TPUF currently has 3 farm assistants that host up to 80 day-camp kids per week and work with the residents in the garden duties. This season 30 plus high school students completed their 40 hours of volunteer hours. We often collaborate with other organizations which helps to strengthen not-for-profit networks and common goals.
TPUF has been a speaker for Drawdown Toronto’s Just Eat It Toronto Food Waste Challenge (you can watch the interview with Michelle here) and as a featured speaker in their Groundwork for Change webinar series. TPUF also spoke for the Youth of East York’s environmental stewardship webinar. This year we have also been working with StoryPlanet with creating art and sharing stories. We have had art workshops where our gardeners work together in painting murals on the tree stumps and a large mural on a wooden fence wall.
Our gardens not only beautify our community, it is a resource of learning and activity, all while being a part of a solution towards global climate change.