Come Grow With Us- Community Gardening Greystone Inclusion Project

Organization Sponsor: Urban Farm Museum Society of Spryfield

Organization Partner: Action for Neighbourhood Change

URLs: 

Program Description

Through an extension of the existing community garden at the Urban Farm, this project will allow residents in Greystone to participate in gardening within their own community. It will allow families to learn about gardening and include fresh produce in their diets with low cost.

Project Summary: Establishing and supporting a community garden in the Greystone area.It is hoped that this project will foster social support networks, provide employment opportunities and skills-building, as well as increase healthy child development.

Construction of a garden: The new Greystone Garden was built with the help of the children of Greystone and the Urban Farm (providing volunteer labour) in March and April of 2006. Funding for materials, tools and contract labour were provided through a $4500.00 grant from Action for Neighbourhood Change. Ten new garden beds (each one 28’ long and 4’ wide) provided food growing space for the Greystone Garden Program and allotments for local adults/families. These garden beds are well-built and will continue to provide growing space for several years to come.

Physical activities: Each of the participants learned new physical skills and increased their level of physical activity during each class. Physical labour included digging with a shovel or hand trowel, reaching and pulling for weeds and carrying buckets of water from a neighbour’s hose to the garden. In the fall, older children used the garden lawn as a safe place to practice cheerleading and dance routines, with a built-in audience. The Urban Farm purchased basketballs and during breaks in garden work, children often played basketball or played tag on the garden lawn.

Partnerships for neighbourhood renewal: As an integral part of the Greystone Garden Project, the Urban Farm and Action for Neighbourhood Change asked Halifax Metro Housing Authority to repair and replace dangerous chain link fencing along the boundary of the garden. This repair improved the safety and appearance of the neighbourhood. We also asked for and received assistance from Halifax Regional Municipality Recreation to repair and revitalize the basketball court adjacent to the garden. The Greystone Garden classes often included picking up and disposing of litter in the immediate neighbourhood. The garden, basketball court and surrounding area were, for the most part, litter free.

Healthy eating: A snack was served during each class. Snacks consisted of fresh Nova Scotia apples, baby carrots and fresh water. At first, participants complained about the choice of snacks, preferring soda over water, sweets over fruit and vegetables. After a few weeks, all participants enjoyed the snacks and looked forward to them.

Peas and lettuce were the first crops ready for harvesting (July 26th). Participants picked, washed and shared the harvest at each class. Each participant took home fresh produce for themselves and/or their families. Some of the harvested crops were eaten immediately by the participants, especially peas, green and yellow string beans and lettuce. Other food harvested included onions, potatoes, spinach, carrots, cucumber, corn and Swiss chard. Even in late October, participants were taking home large bags of lettuce from class. The participants enjoyed the accomplishment of growing and eating the fresh produce.

The Greystone Housing Complex, a public housing project which sits on top of Spryfield�s highest hill, is the most visible sign of the area�s need for social investment. Built in the 1970s Greystone was the first of several low-rent accommodations to be built in Spryfield and it represented a shift to a greater disparity in income among residents than had previously existed. The land beneath the 220 Greystone townhouses was trucked in from a construction
site and offers no healthy soil for plants or trees.No gardens and little greenery make for a drab,industrial-looking neighbourhood for about 600 people. The physical isolation of the project up steep roads has created an �up the hill, down the hill� mentality. Residents must leave their area for food and services, but visitors rarely come into the neighbourhood. The regional municipality�s shift to centralized services poses an access challenge to low-income residents who have to rely on low-frequency transit service.•

Program Approximate Cost: 

free

Funding Sources: 

The Chebucto West Community Health Board (CWCHB) = $3980.00; Active Halifax = $700.00)Action for Neighbourhood Change ($4500.)

Strategies For Sustainability: 

Classes included opportunities to learn: specifics about growing, nurturing, harvesting and preparing food from the garden; practical information on the local natural environment; application of literacy and mathematics; vocabulary enrichment; and art activities.

Impact Of Program: 

Fifty nine (59) children in the Greystone community of Spryfield attended classes held on three afternoons a week from April through September, and once a week through October 2006. Three (3) adults took advantage of allotment space to grow food in the garden. The Urban Farm provided a garden class curriculum and one volunteer to participate and the funding from CWCHB provided a contract staff position to conduct the classes. The program attendance for children exceeded our expectations (i.e. goal of 5 children). We had hoped that more adult Greystone residents would participate by taking an allotment (i.e. goal of 5 adults)
Five of the participants who attended regularly were children with disabilities. Shy at first, these children each learned new skills, cooperated and were recognized as important members of the ’Garden Club’ (as the children called the program). Two children with significant communication disabilities attended very regularly. Both of these children were functionally ‘mute’ during the first few classes they attended and gradually began to speak as their comfort level increased. By the end of the growing season, the eight year old child with communication difficulties led garden tours for visitors to the garden, describing the progress of the crops and her expectations for harvest. An internationally known advocate for people with disabilities, Judith Snow, visited the garden and spent time with the participants. She challenged a few participants to a race between her in a motorized wheelchair and boys on skateboard, mini-car and bikes.
Public information on the project: Urban Farm volunteers participated in two community gatherings sponsored through United Way’s Action for Neighbourhood Change. At these events, we showcased the Greystone Garden Project, encouraged community participation, and displayed signs acknowledging funding from Chebucto West Community Health Board.

The Chebucto News (Vol. 8, No. 8, November 2006) featured the Greystone Garden with an article and photograph. CWCHB was specifically named as one of the funders of the project. (newspaper attached)

CBC Information Morning featured the Urban Farm and its Greystone Garden Project in two 5 minute segments in September 2006.

Evaluation Tools: 

In total, the 59 children made 425 visits to the hour-long classes of the Greystone Garden Program over the growing season. This is an average of 7.2 visits per child. On an average day, approximately 6 children participated in the class. Participants ranged in age from 3 to 17 years old, with many of the participants being between 8 and 10 years old.

Key Elements Towards Success: 

•Issues of Education, Healthy Food Choices, Culture, Social Support Networks, Physical Environment, Healthy Child Development, Personal Health Practices
•Was a demonstration or pilot-project.
•Promoted healthy activities and actively sought to reduce unhealthy activities.

Challenges To Meet Them: 

Teamwork: The participants followed garden ‘rules’ which stressed teamwork, tolerance and cooperation. Older children sometimes worked together and sometimes paired up with younger siblings or neighbours to plant, weed, harvest, clean and divide up the crops. Considering the number of participants and the potential for conflict, there were relatively few instances of teasing or quarrelling over the season. Participants who continued to quarrel after warnings were asked to leave the garden and come back another day. There was very little vandalism over the growing season, although many residents had predicted this would be a major challenge to the program.
Saturday Program: Although our weekday afternoon classes at the new Greystone Garden were very popular, early Saturday morning was a challenge we did not overcome. Two (2) children and no unpaid adults from Greystone attended the Saturday morning classes in gardening offered at the Urban Farm. We had hoped that walking to the Urban Farm Saturday Program would be popular, however, it was not. We did not meet our goal in this area.

Length and Stage of Project: 

Classes were held on three afternoons a week from April through September, and once a week through October 2006. project will continue 2007 and beyond.

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