This summer I had the pleasure of working with Green Thumbs Growing Kids as a Garden Program Leader. When I learned that I was hired, I was very excited for the opportunity to have such a unique summer job. I did not know, however, that I would learn countless new things and substantially grow as a person in my two months with the organization.
Besides all of the valuable gardening knowledge I attained, which I cannot overstate, I feel that my entire social consciousness changed while working for Green Thumbs. Getting involved in neighbourhoods like Regent Park and St. James Town introduced me to falsely stigmatized areas that I had only walked through or read about.
I learned the importance of promoting locally grown, healthy food in densely populated and historically low-income areas. The more I immersed myself in the community gardens and the culture surrounding urban gardening, the more I began to notice the inventive ways that people in these neighbourhoods had taken gardening upon themselves. In Regent Park, inner courtyards are used to their fullest capabilities to grow vegetables and greens. In St. Jamestown, I often noticed balconies featuring lush greenery sticking out amongst the monotonous white high rises.
The fact that this whole aspect of Toronto’s identity was unknown and overlooked by me before is probably the greatest change that occurred in me over the summer. My mind opened up to a new method of living and a new understanding of how people in a dense urban setting are able to harness their surroundings and their resources in order to produce something sustainable. From now on, as I walk and bike through these communities, I will hold this knowledge with high regard, along with my respect for how much goes on in this city that you have to get close to, to see.
James Malekzadeh is a film student at Ryerson University.