When we began working at the London Community Resource Centre, one of our visions was to see youth gain a better understanding and a better appreciation for the entire food system, something we feel has been lost with younger generations growing up with busy schedules, fast food for their convenience and a lack of food skills.We are excited to be a part of an ongoing project, Gardens of Opportunity, linking youth with seniors. The Gardens of Opportunity project is a way to bring younger generations together with seasoned gardeners and provides an opportunity for a transfer of knowledge between generations. Not only does the project see seniors with a passion for gardening providing helpful tips and garden tricks to beginner gardeners, but it also allows for our younger friends to share their confidence with technology and incorporate the modern world into the gardening experience.
The Gardens of Opportunity is all about personal skill development and the transfer of knowledge. Learning occurs in a variety of ways. From the organizing of workshops, planning community events and volunteering in any capacity facilitates skills development and learning.
Gardens of Opportunity linked seniors and youth at The Place of Discovery School Tours at the Western Fair. Over 800 youth from areas schools visited our display and seniors were invited to assist us with sharing their wisdom and experience to all the visitors at our display over the 10 days of the fall fair. Our display was located the Down on the Farm area, especially design as an attraction for the young and the young at heart. Community members of all ages learned about the importance of attracting pollinators to the garden, water harvesting to conserve water when watering the garden, gardening with limited space using vertical and square foot garden boxes and a host of other gardening specialties.
Our most recent collaboration is seniors mentoring young gardeners at the rooftop gardens of Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). Seasoned gardeners from the London’s Community Gardens are sharing their tried and true gardening secrets to youth as they grow various plants in downtown London. The harvest from the rooftop garden will be used in the YOU Made it Cafe and special events hosted by YOU. We stopped in for a visit and tour of the roof top area, and in that short time learned a few gardening tips from Jacquie, a community gardener from the Riverfork’s Garden. Jacquie showed us how to remove suckers from tomato plants. Suckers are small growths between the branches that won’t produce fruit and hence can be removed. Jacquie and Linda also explained lettuces must be picked before they bolt. Bolting occurs when the plant is exposed to prolong periods of sun and heat (a few days) ultimately causing the lettuce to taste bitter. To the beginner gardener, it looks like the lettuce is growing more vertically than it is horizontally and may even have little flowers blooming. Jacquie also showed us the difference between a radish planted with proper spacing versus a radish grown in too little space.
Can you guess which one wasn’t thinned?
Through the years, programming at the LCRC has naturally evolved. Cook It Up!, a pilot project developed several years ago linked at-risk youth, farmers and chefs. On field trips to area farms, farmers accompanied the youth into the fields to experience first hand farming practices and how to harvest produce. The youth took this freshly picked produce and met with a seasoned chef in the kitchen to receive a personal cooking lesson. This full-circle approach connected youth to the entire food process. The following year, a light bulb came on: we don’t need to travel outside of the city to learn about growing and cooking food, we can accomplish this using gardens in London. It was this catalyst that formed the roots of the Grow Cook Learn programme. The Gardens of Opportunity falls under the Grow Cook Learn brand. We can learn so much from each other. To do so in an open environment provides caring mentorship and socialization for both the youth and the seniors.
As we move forward, our programmes continue to bloom, much like our gardens and we are thrilled with the growth.
Until next time,
Eva and Brittany