A New Tenant-Led Garden!
August 1, 2023Super AdminComments 0
Thanks to the advocacy of tenants and grant funding from the Community Housing Transformation Centre (CHTC), CCOC was able to install our 13th tenant-led garden at 143-153 Arlington Avenue this Spring, giving residents the opportunity to grow their own food at home, as well as build connections with neighbours and the natural environment.
How did the Garden Come to Be?
143-153 Arlington is a CCOC property that was re-developed, opening in 2019. The yard at the building is relatively small and did not include garden beds in the design. For several years following the opening of the property, tenants expressed interest in having a garden at the property. When in the summer of 2022, the Tenant and Community Engagement Department (TCE) became aware that there was funding being offered by the Community Housing Transformation Centre (CHTC) for projects that would promote environmental sustainability, we applied. Our application was ultimately successful and the project began!
Tenant Involvement Throughout the Process
One of the essential pieces of this project was having tenant involvement throughout the process. We knew there was a small group of tenants that were invested in having a garden at the property and had been advocating for CCOC to install garden beds. Before installing the beds, we wanted to ensure there was broader support from the rest of the tenants in the building. Given that the backyard is a small area, we wanted to ensure we were balancing everyone’s needs for the space. We wanted to give all tenants an opportunity to give feedback in multiple formats, and then engage everyone who was interested in participating in the design process for the garden.
At the end of March, an email was sent to all the residents at the building with a survey to gauge support for the garden. Out of 16 units in the building, responses were received from 9 units with overwhelming support for installing garden beds. To decide on where the garden should go and what it should look like, we consulted with several tenants through a ‘focus group’ discussion and gathering email input. We also drew on the expertise of our landscaper, Bill Hanna.
We decided to install steel garden beds, as they are more durable, meaning they would have a longer lifespan than a wooden bed. Folks expressed that the priority should be creating the most garden space possible given the limited size of the yard. Bill recommended that we install beds along the pathway in the yard to maximize the gardening space.
When the beds arrived at the building, tenants were invited to join CCOC staff in the backyard to help with assembly. Putting the beds together proved to be more difficult than we had anticipated, however, thanks to one of our facilities staff, Thiago, and the determination of tenants who came to help out, we were successful. Several days later, Bill and his team were able to install the beds in the ground and fill them with soil. The gardens were almost ready to be filled with plants!
After the garden was installed, eight people from five different units expressed interest in gardening. There was room for six plots, so each unit was able to receive their own space to garden and the gardeners collectively decided to use the sixth plot to plant an herb garden. The herb garden is available to all tenants in the building to ensure that even if someone did not want to or could not garden themselves, the whole building can still be engaged in some way. A tenant Garden Coordinator is responsible for the day-to-day running of the garden, including coordinating the gardeners to ensure the herb garden is cared for and all collective garden care and maintenance duties are shared.
After the garden beds were installed and filled with soil, a garden opening celebration was held in the backyard. Everyone in the building was invited to come enjoy a BBQ and other treats. Lots of the children also had fun with bubbles! At the end of the event, the gardeners began planting seedlings and seeds in their plots. Several weeks later, with the seedlings growing tall and seeds beginning to sprout, the garden is looking green and full of life.
Building Community & Promoting Sustainability
The two main objectives of the project were to build community and promote sustainability. We had hoped that the project would bring tenants together to design both the physical garden and the governance structure for the garden. This made tenant involvement through things like consultations, the community build and having a tenant Garden Coordinator, one of the most important factors when completing this project. In the long term, we hope that the garden will become a space where current and future tenants meet, connect with one another and engage directly with their property. Already, the garden was used as a gathering point for folks at the garden opening celebration, where both gardeners and other tenants were able to come appreciate the space.
We are also proud to say that this new tenant-led garden has enabled tenants at 143-153 Arlington to garden close to home, connecting them with nature in their own backyard. CCOC’s garden agreement requires folks to refrain from using pesticides, meaning the gardens are cared for using organic and sustainable gardening practices. Additionally, creating a space for food to be grown and shared at home, reduces the “food print” of the community, by supplying hyper-local food.
At many of our other properties with tenant-led gardens, we have seen the gardens become a gateway for tenants to engage in sustainable practices at their property. The gardeners have expanded beyond vegetable plots, and have planted natural habitat gardens in the surrounding grounds, started composting, or organized workshops on other sustainable practices. We see encouraging gardening via building garden infrastructure as one way that CCOC can support tenants through reducing barriers for tenants who want to make changes to reduce their environmental footprint.
Thank you to the CCOC Staff, our landscaper Bill and his crew, and most of all the tenants at 143-153 Arlington for helping to make this garden happen. We would also like to thank the Community Housing Transformation Centre for the financial support.