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Indigenous Food Sovereignty Garden and AMHS Garden join Loving Spoonful community gardens

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A community endeavour that started with six gardens in 2013 and currently supports over 35 gardens in the city and area has expanded this year to include projects with AMHS and at the Highway 15 Walking the Path of Peace Together site, maintained by the Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest and community members.

The Community Investment Fund between the United Way and City of Kingston has allowed for the Loving Spoonful to expand its’ successful community garden project to include support for the two sites.

Though many of the gardens are allotment gardens where members book space, these two will act as collective gardens that are managed by the community and have the harvest shared.

The Indigenous Food Sovereignty Garden is supported by the Loving Spoonful by way of access to overnight culture programs and expert advice, but is also separate and sovereignly run by Indigenous community members.

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The grant has allowed them to expand this year however, nearly tripling in size.

The site also currently acts as a space for KILN to run on the land programming on Thursday evenings, which acts as both a relationship builder with the land as well as direct climate action.

Maureen Buchanan of KILN says climate action and care for the land play a big role taking steps towards reconciliation.

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“At one time this was a forested territory and due to colonization there was a lot of trees removed,” Buchanan said.

“80% of the trees were removed, and about 80% of our Indigenous people were lost.”

She added that the main purpose of the garden and projects on the land are for the betterment of the urban Indigenous population.

The relationship with the Loving Spoonful also manages to work cyclically, with some fresh food harvested at the garden and distributed able to be donated to the organization.

AMHS’ garden, located on Lyons Street, will be used as a therapeutic space for clients.

This program, spearheaded in large part by the North Shore ACT Team, encourages clients seeking mental health or addiction treatment to get active and outside in addition to traditonal practices.

Kelsey Tucker, Occupational Therapist and Team Lead, says that evidence proves activity and a relationship with nature have a number of benefits.

“Some of my responsibility as an OT is to bring these sort of holistic or non-traditional values to treatment setting like this because the evidence supports the idea that having activities is good for you and being outdoors, even gardening improves people’s self esteem and their physical wellness,” she said.

“In tending a garden you’re also sort of learning the skills of care a nurturing, and I think that is work for everyone to learn to do.”

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Tucker also wanted to assert after witnessing Toronto Police’s violent clearing of an encampment, that this garden is a safe space for everyone.

She added that safety is the essential component in providing trauma-informed care, and this garden is a space for clients to feel safe.

Both the Highway 15 Walking the Path of Peace Together site and the AMHS garden will also feature little forests, inspired by Miyawaki forest in Japan.

These forests are densely planted in urban areas with trees native to the area, and in October the Highway 15 location will see 900 trees of over 49 species planted.

Tucker added that after being told by consulting master gardeners that they would have space for such a forest at the AMHS site, it was a no brainer.

“From an environmental justice perspective, and even occupational justice in terms of resources of people living in those buildings or who are clients of our team, they’re not the folks who are able to just hop in the car and pack a picnic and go to Frontenac park or whatever,” Tucker said.

Loving Spoonful convenes the Kingston community gardens network throughout Kingston and the surrounding area, providing support as far as educational workshops, acting as liaison between groups and the city and securing funding for new gardens.

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Ayla Fenton, Urban Agriculture Organizer at the Loving Spoonful, says the biggest challenge with her job of coordinating these projects is securing the resources to meet the ever growing demand.

“There’s an enormous demand for community garden space in Kingston and there are a few hundred people on waiting lists for allotments,” said Fenton.

“The cost of starting gardens, particularly in municipal space is quite high.”

Fenton says fighting to secure grants and volunteers, and navigating bureaucracy can be challenges to the gardens.

The Loving Spoonful is attempting to work with the City of Kingston to examine ways the city’s policy can change to make gardens easier to start and grow and are hoping the city expands its budget for the project in 2022.

This year, they also launched a new program around Urban Agriculture and are as such dedicating more resources and staff time on community gardens.

The Loving Spoonful is constantly welcoming volunteers to help facilitate this program as well as accepting donations.

Information on how to get involved can be found on their website.

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