Thanks for your visit. The Garden Route Therapy blog is no longer in use. I’ve decided to keep it online as it captures my self-directed learning path, between 2007 – 2009, to discover the world of horticultural therapy and therapeutic gardening. This online scrapbook also represents my first committed blogging experience (99 posts) and starting to support others blogging. Many of my early impressions are shared here. This includes important time spent volunteering, visits to innovative sites, taking part-in the Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Certificate, an internship at Providence Farm, and later getting my first job where I could use my new skills.

I apologize if not all the links included are currently active but I hope the information compiled may still be of use to other learners interested in gardening for health. Thank you very much to all my mentors and encouragers during this stage of my journey. I continue to be inspired by what grows in gardens and in the garden is where you’ll find me.
—Emma Rooney

Visit the About page to find out more.

fall flash

Tree of Assets

Tree of Assets

My fall season started while at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph, first coordinating a five day horticultural therapy practical training, directly followed by the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association conference and annual general meeting.  Magnificent golden days enriched this flurry of activity.

The Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Practical Training was hosted at the Julien Project, a charitable organizationwreath making field practicalusing social and therapeutic gardening on the Ignatius Jesuit Centre property.  Seven students, from different parts of Ontario and even an American visitor, came to the Project for an intense week of hands on learning.  The site was ideal in that it provided a  space to work directly with a diversity of populations in both a protected courtyard and field production plot in the community garden.  There were lots of opportunities for experimenting with various activities, including wreath making, vegetable harvesting and creating seed mosaics and then a chance to debrief as a group the experience.

Spiral Garden

We also had the chance to visit a range of exemplary sites,  from hospitals to farms, using greenhouse at Sunnybrook gardening and nature for health promotion.  The context and scale was always different but overall, students were most blown away by the passion of the individuals working at all these places.

For me personally, it was a joy to be able to share much of what I have acquired since I Everdale started on my own horticultural therapy journey and to introduce students to the Julien Project, a site where I have gained so much by volunteering with program delivery and now on the Board of Directors.  The Julien Project has a vision to be a national teaching site for therapeutic gardening and horticultural therapy and the education week launched that work.  It was also a great pleasure to work with Christine Pollard and Sharon Stewart, my teachers and mentors, to offer this program.  The generous spirits of the students who participated made this an invaluable experience for us all. 

Thank you to all the risk takers.


I also sit on the Board of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association and was excited that the location of this year’s conference would allow our members to experience the Ignatius Jesuit Centre and also be introduced more fully to the Julien Project.  It was great to see how many new people were in attendance wanting to learn about this field and get connected.  The Julien Project had a place to make a presentation at the conference about our process as a new organization building  towards becoming sustainable, fitting with this year’s larger environmental theme.  A reception held at the courtyard garden welcomed participants into this peaceful space.

On the Sunday, I made my own presentation about my area of passion and experience, children and youth and therapeutic horticulture.   I wanted to create an interactive CHTA Child and Youth Presentationenvironment to explore the current context around gardening for young people and the potential role of therapeutic horticulture in this work.  I believe their is a role to ensure that health promotion is more strongly incorporated and that the recognized health benefits move beyond the realm of obesity prevention.  It felt appropriate to be having a lively discussion in our own outdoor classroom.

*Photo credit: Margaret Nevett for CHTA presentation capture (above)

The Book Nook & Research Cabinet

Recommendations for the Horticultural Therapy Community

*An on-line add on to the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association members’ newsletter.  You are invited to comment and share your favorite HT related books and research.

November/December 2009 Edition

Defiant Gardens:  Making Gardens in Wartime
Author: Kenneth I. Helphand
San Antonio: Trinity University Press (2006)

Fascinating online extension available at http://defiantgardens.com

“Would you be so kind as to send me some flower seeds?…I want to cover the unsightly earth with verdure (41).” –a WWI soldier’s special request in a letter home

An appropriate selection in the month of Remembrance Day, this historical record provides insight into the significant role of gardens in challenging times.  Helphand’s garden research, related specifically to war, focuses on the first half of the twentieth century.

Where do we see defiant gardens in our own communities at this time?  Why do these spaces often thrive against all odds?   What is the role of gardens in peace building and healing?

growing beyong the strike

Since returning to work I have been loading up my bicycle with supplies and heading to different City of Toronto community centers to deliver garden/nature activities to camp children.  Together we’ve been mixing seedballs and compost tea, sprouting snacks, learning about red wigglers, transforming into butterflies, playing fancy flower bingo and carefully observing pollinators at work.  I’ve especially enjoyed sharing story time with The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone (Timothy Basil Ering) and a new addition to my collection, Wangari’s Trees of Peace:  A True Story from Africa growing through the strike(Jeanette Winter).

At one of our sites, I was pointing out to the children that the eggplants had not gone beyond flowering despite us being well into August.  I pondered aloud why this should be and heard one little girl responded that it was because of the BIG strike.  Well actually, Mother Nature definitely hasn’t been on strike while we left our gardens unattended.  It was rather humbling to return to our sites and find jungles.  The rain certainly helped keep many things alive, despite the lack of sun and heat for the eggplants and tomatoes alike.  There are certainly a lot of weeds but in some cases this has helped to safely hide our growing treasures.


croc and friend

This past Sunday we went ahead and celebrated summer at the High Park Children’s Garden.  Visitors to the garden had an opportunity to try flavorful vegetarian dishes, representing different parts of the globe, prepared by our Youth Cooking Program, using predominately local ingredients picked from the garden and purchased at the Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market.  My two favorites were the Ethiopian lentil salad with beautiful beets and sticky coconut rice served with peaches (a local twist to this recipe from Laos).

This special event included musical performers and garden activities, including  the chance for children to play with their food by creating edible snack sculptures.  It was delightful to watch their imaginations at work as they created exotic creatures from local produce, each one a work of art.

The Book Nook & Research Cabinet

Reading recommendations for the Horticultural Therapy Community

*An on-line add on to a new section of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association members’ newsletter.  You are invited to comment and share your favorite HT related books and research.

September/October 2009 Edition

Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness (2008)
Authors: Bunny Guinness & Jacqueline Knox
Is your garden work doing more harm to your body than good?  Are you modeling the safest techniques to your participants?
This unique book brings together the expert skills of a physiotherapist and garden designer to offer an approach to gardening that promotes good health.  Great ideas for using the garden as a site for regular exercise and how to look after yourself in the process of getting fit right in your backyard.

International Journal of Therapeutic Communities
Green Care Edition (2008)

Available free online.
Green Care uses a range of nature-based approaches to produce health, social or educational benefits.  These approaches included social and therapeutic horticulture, care farming, animal assisted interventions, green exercise, ecotherapy and wilderness/nature therapy.

This special edition of the journal provides a number of papers that draw parallels between green care and therapeutic communities.  Green care is a growing movement, especially in Europe, bringing a broad range of groups together to organize around research and practice.
How does this connect to what is happening in Canada?  What does it mean for the field of Horticultural Therapy?

the healthy roof

summer 031

I recently had the opportunity to visit the South Riverdale Community Health Centre rooftop garden which includes a number of raised beds and recycled containers growing a variety of vegetables and herbs.  There is even a view of the CN Tower!  The Garden Club was busy seed saving, harvesting and preparing a beautiful fresh salad for lunch.  This approach to health promotion would be a valuable addition to all of our community health centres in Toronto.

a striking thought

“If children were unionized they would surely organize walkout and strikes against such atrocious working conditions…The fact that they are still prevalent in the majority of schools, where supposedly children should learn understanding and respect for their surrounding, it a measure of adults’ disregard for children’s basic right to a safe environment, and one that is life-enhancing and developmentally supportive.”

Robin C. Moore

Before and After Asphalt:  Diversity as an Ecological Measure of Quality in Children’s Outdoor Environments.

spring of new opportunities

Somehow this spring seemed to pass like a flash, perhaps due to the flurry of my activity, from moving to High Park to starting a brand new job with the City of Toronto, Parks Forestry & Recreation.  In the role of Expansion Assistant, with the Children’s Garden & Exploring Toronto Programs, I have the great fortune of being able to support City of Toronto sites integrating children’s gardening and environmental education into their programming.  The Program’s flagship location is the High Park Children’s Garden, a site I previously volunteered at in 2007.  The site is exemplary with wheel chair accessibility and raised beds.  In my role, I am seeking ways to include horticultural therapy practices into program delivery, in order to ensure that gardening can be fully enjoyed by all young people.

As part of this Program’s capacity building mandate, we offer City Staff Training and started the season with an interactive workshop, delivered by Jane Hayes, that provided many creative ideas for children’s garden programming.

A significant task, early on the job, was to pick the plant orders (vegetables and flowers) for a number of Expansion Sites across the City and to make deliveries.  I was thrilled to find myself once again in a greenhouse setting, especially considering the energy and activity of the large scale operation at the High Park Greenhouses.

Last spring/summer I spent considerable time working at the Providence Farm Greenhouse and was now pleasantly surprised to discover how transferable the skills I had gained were in my new place of employment.  My Horticultural Therapy Internship at Providence Farm was intended to develop my skills in working with people, yet it has become evident that I gained a considerable amount of horticulture knowledge simultaneously, including plant identification, watering, pest control, seeding, transplanting and picking.

Unfortunately, I am part of the on-going workers’ strike and haven’t been able to tend to the gardens and enthusiastic new gardeners.  I hope it will be resolved quickly…

The Living Food Box

From CBC Radio, on Here and Now, hear Toronto urban gardener Zora Ignjatovic speaking with Sarah Elton about rooftop gardening and the amazing Living Food Box.  These “blue bin” like boxes, with a simple hydroponic system, are now available in Toronto.  Ideal for Horticultural Therapists looking to introduce the magic of food gardening in locations with restricted space.

To hear more, download the Here and Now MP3 segment.

For purchasing, contact Zora at artdecos@rogers.com

hello spring

We had an exciting kick-off to spring at the H.O.P.E. Community Garden in Parkdale with outdoor nature activities for kids during March Break.  Children and parents biked, walked, took the TTC and in one case, drove all the way from Scarborough to join us on the blue tarp at Masaryk Park.  We had beautiful spring weather, minus the rain.  We stretched like seeds, matched animals with their marks, smelt, tasted and planted basil, built a magic forest and garden guardians, explored objects from nature blindfolded, filled musical bean shakers and created food art snacks.  At the start, everyone wondered if there was really anything alive in the garden, but after investigating with magnifying glasses, signs of spring were discovered peeking through the soil.

Thank you to Greenest City for hosting and Garden Jane for supporting our learning in organizing and facilitating this programming.  Special appreciation of Leah and Marilyn for working with the children in the garden.
Hello Spring

how to start a community garden

“Recognizing the social and environmental value of community gardens, in 1999 City Council endorsed the Community Gardening Action Plan, which seeks to establish a community garden in every ward by 2003.” City of Toronto, Community Gardens

This ambitious, yet still unrealized, strategic goal is supported by the “How to Start a Community Garden”  two day workshop, presented by the Toronto Community Food Animators Project (The StopAfri-Can FoodBasket and FoodShare) with sponsorship from Toronto Community Garden Network and Toronto Community Housing.  The program provides community members with accessible and practical training to undertake a community garden project.  I would highly recommend this learning opportunity if you are already invested in a community garden and looking to take your site to a new level of community involvement or looking to organize a new garden initiative in the City (or beyond).  Be sure to catch this training next spring.

You may imagine that we spent the two days discussing soil safety, what to grow, how to grow, garden design and the likes, but instead the focus was people, the heart of a successful community garden.  A community garden was defined as a place to grow food and community.  The emphasis was on developing skills as community organizers, understanding the benefits of using gardens as sites for community building.

Shortly after attending this session, I watched The Garden, an Academy Award Nominated documentary by Scott Hamilton Kennedy on a community garden in L.A., that was the largest of its kind in the United States before greed and politics brought about its demise.  It is an extreme case, with devastating consequences for the South Central Farmers, yet it reinforces many of the lessons gained from the “How to Start a Community Garden” training.  The scale of the project, the benefits to the community presented and the ownership felt by the farmers is inspiring.  The challenges to decision making, conflict resolution and conflicting land use claims are also presented in a very real way.  It addresses a significant barrier to community gardening, and that is, that most community gardeners do not own the land in which they invest so much, the possibility of removal is always in the background.

horticultural therapy education online

As a new Home Farm Associate, I am pleased to announce that March marked the official launch of the Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Certificate Live On Line. We successfully offered the first module, “What is Horticultural Therapy” over three days with students from across Canada and even a southern neighbor participating.  The program takes place in a virtual classroom through Elluminate where the instructors speak to the class and present on a whiteboard. Each day begins with students describing what they see outside their windows and current temperatures in their area, connecting our weather patterns cross country.  Students are also able to interact by raising their hands and adding their perspectives to the discussion.  There is also the opportunity for student led presentations, video showings, web tours, file sharing and a message board.

At first everyone is a bit tentative about the technology but due to the ease of the set-up, quickly students are sold and we see true personalities being expressed online.  A true on-line learning community is established with a group of people who are interested in engaging on the same topic.  Thank you to all the first timers who took the risk to join us with this new venture.  We hope to see you in Module 2 (coming in April).  Thank you to Christine Pollard (HTM) for providing another accessible horticultural therapy education platform and for allowing me to take part in the instruction and development of this exciting advancement for horticultural therapy in Canada and beyond.

winter garden work

Lots of lively discussion at the Organic Garden and Permaculture Discussion Group offered by Garden Jane.

We continue to work through the Natural Farming ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka and consider practical applications for this knowledge in an urban area like Toronto.

From Fukuoka’s book, The One-Straw Revolution, I was able to glean the following quotes which I found to be particularly meaningful for my studies in horticultural therapy:

“Ultimately it is not the growing technique which is the most important factor, but rather the state of mind of the farmer (46).”

“Food and medicine are not two different things:  they are the front and back of one body.  Chemically grown vegetables may be eaten for food, but they cannot be used as medicine (100).”

“If a sick person returns to a healthy environment often the disease will disappear (144).”

We have an “in the garden” session set-up for April and in the meantime an opportunity to consider how to unite the body, the heart and the mind through our garden practices.

looking for signs of spring

This is Tamara Green, another gardening education enthusiast, on a site visit at the H.O.P.E. Community Garden.  We are currently working together as a Garden Jane Interns & have the exciting opportunity to organize outdoor nature programing for children during March Break.  On the day that we toured, the snow covered space challenged us to visualize the potential transformation in a few weeks and how we will animate the garden for the children.

Program Information:

Will your kids go a little CRAZY over March Break?
Need something to do with them?

Join us for activities at the H.O.P.E. Community Garden
Wednesday March 18th & Friday March 20th
2 pm – 4 pm

Kids will make art, listen to stories and plant seeds.
Parents, we need you or a guardian there. But you get to RELAX,
make new friends and join activities if you want.

Dress for the outdoors. Rain or shine. We’ll have yummy snacks.

Who: Children, ages 3-9 and a parent or guardian
Where: Masaryk Park, 220 Cowan Ave. (meet in the garden)
Cost: $5 per child (includes snack for all)

Pre-Registration Required
Call 647.438.0038 (Weekdays 9-6) or Email register@greenestcity.ca

Greenest City

Garden Jane

Recycling Box Garden Box

At this year’s Organic Conference in Guelph, Ontario, Zora introduced me to a fabulous container for growing vegetables on roof top gardens. The product is from Alternatives, an international cooperative network, in Montreal. The special recycling box design uses irrigation by capillary which reduces the amount of watering required.  The design includes the following: a filling top (for watering), submerged soil mixture column, water reservoir and a false bottom (which you plant on top of).  This method was successfully experimented on the Roof Top Garden at the Big Carrot health foods store.  A great idea, just in time to get us excited about the upcoming growing season.

*For more information about the product see:  The Rooftop Garden Project.

beating the winter blues

When the ground is covered in snow, I find the best way to beat the winter blues it to deepen my learning by studying gardening.  This Saturday I for fortunate to attend the Technical Update put on by the Toronto Master Gardeners.  I believe it was the largest gathering of gardeners I have ever been a part of and I felt energized by the experience.  The day covered the important theme of The Global Gardener:  Gardening in a Changing Climate.  I hope to be able to join a Master Gardener group this year.

Today I am starting my first course, Cultural Practices for Plants, towards the Horticulturalist Certificate offered by the University of Guelph Office of Open Learning. Despite having a blog and being generally comfortable with technology, this is my first on-line course and I was surprisingly nervous the first time I accessed the class website.  Unlike going to a class, where the teacher distributes the syllabus and walks you through the procedure, this is a lot more self directed as you discover the different components carefully organized on the site.

To balance my computer learning with more direct human contact, I am following a discussion group offered by Jane Hayes of Garden Jane.  Tomorrow will be our second in-person meeting to discuss our assigned book the One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer who developed a “natural farming” method.  I always find it a shame to read a great book and not be able to discuss the ideas with others who have similar interests and therefore I am very much looking forward to the discussion tomorrow.

I wonder how my horticulture course will address alternative methods of growing and environmental practices?  Will I be able to put the different aspects of my learning and experience into conversation with each other or will contradicting lessons challenge me to draw my own conclusions?

job shadowing

Last week I had a chance to job shadow Tracy Ruffini for the day, a Horticultural Therapist, at Malton Village, a long term care facility operated by the Region of Peel in Mississauga.  I observed Tracy in action delivering horticultural activities to residents, which included preparing large outdoor winter arrangements to welcome visitors and potting paperwhites to be sold at the upcoming Christmas sale. I appreciated Tracy’s use of calming music in her sessions and presentation of beautiful garden images on display on the work table.  It was encouraging to see that the facility was designed with a horticultural therapy program in mind and includes activity sun-rooms, communal balconies and outdoor garden spaces with raised beds and greenhouses.  It’s one thing to read about horticultural therapy for seniors in a textbook, but far richer to see a Horticultural Therapist on-site.  As I am just getting started, I find it enormously valuable to see the work in as many different settings as possible.  On the business side of things, I like to pick the brains of those who have gone before about the process of running your own business and establishing contracts with different facilities.  I suspect this is an area to focus further education for HT students, to ensure we are able to integrate our skills into a market place that can appear to have limited opportunities if you aren’t willing to be creative and create your own jobs.

grounds that produce hope & opportunity

This month saw the presentation of the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds All Hands in the Dirt:  A Forum on the Design of Children’s Outdoor Spaces.  It was the first year that Evergreen opened the event to the public and I was privileged to be able to volunteer and participate.  Clearly the timing is right to create a national network of professionals, bringing together knowledge of landscape design, child development and nature.  I left inspired that school yard naturalization, outdoor classrooms and food gardens are more than just viable options to consider, they exist and are successful because of the dedicated work of people across Canada, who recognize the benefits to learning, play, health promotion, the local environment and community building.

My sense is that there is a strong foundation of work related to connecting children with nature and the outdoors but that this work remains more tentative with older children and youth, despite well established exemplary sites.  This Evergreen event coincided with the Government of Ontario launch of the Roots of Youth Violence report.  The report draws critical attention to systemic issues of racism, inequality and poverty.  A lot of recent media time has been focused on the recommendation supporting the collecting of race-based statistics.  Coming from the forum on outdoor spaces,  I was looking to see if community design is considered.  Right in the Executive Summary, under Understanding the Roots, comes this strong statement:

“Regrettably, right across Ontario, there are many examples of poor planning and poor design of the built and the developed natural environment, creating places that make some youth feel powerless and isolated, leading them to believe that their options are as limited as their horizons. These negative factors include physical and psychological isolation from the broader community; bleak landscapes with no inviting places to gather or play and little usable green space; a lack of adequate and accessible social and physical infrastructure; limited or non-existent transportation services; and unsafe streets, common areas and passageways (9).”  [Emphasis my own]

The link between urban design and physical inactivity and obesity is also established by the report (13).  Surprisingly, when you come to the recommendations there is nothing specific about the potential design of outdoor spaces for youth to gather, play and create.  It’s as if we can identify the problem but still lack mainstream thinking about the potential to re-design space.  There is more comfort in establishing new programs versus changing the environment in which these programs are offered.  Metaphorically the report discusses grounds:  “We must convert the grounds that now nurture the immediate risk factors into new grounds that produce hope and opportunity” (18).  We need to be talking about physical grounds as part of this discussion.  What do we know about the possible resiliency inducing effects of the physical environment?

The report includes a number of  recommendations where I believe environmental education could be used as an effective response to addressing violence in our society.  Opportunities to implement include, making the school curriculum more relevant, encouraging healthy activities and developing schools as community hubs of activity (which should involve consideration of the use of outdoor spaces).

There is a rich dialogue before us about the opportunity to expand the reach of environmental education.  There is no question that issues of poverty and representation need to be further considered.  Where does this work happen?  Who gets to participate and benefit?  How do we effectively bring together social justice, environmental education and community development?

Agri-Business Careers Tour

I was fortunate to get on the coach bus yesterday and tour agri-business industries in York Region with local educators and government officials.  The second annual tour was organized by the York South Simcoe Training & Adjustment Board, York Region and the York Region Federation of Agriculture.

The tour aims to increase awareness of potential career pathways for students in primary agriculture and secondary agri-business by highlighting opportunities in the local labour market.  We had a chance to visit a diverse range of successful operations including Skelton Truck Lines, King Cole Ducks, Hutchinson Farm Supply, Thompson Potato Farm & Kesmac/Brouwer Turf.  Clearly organizers were looking to show the industries scope, beyond the farmer, with technology and machinery being highlighted.  This might be an easier sell than encouraging the next generation of farmers but without people actually wanting to grow food, our community’s food security is at risk and secondary careers in agriculture will be limited.  The tour concluded with a very generous lunch prepared with local foods, including delicious homemade pie for dessert.

CHTA conference success

Congratulations to everyone involved in making the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association (CHTA) Annual Conference happen.  It was hugely successful, an impressive showcase of horticultural therapy activities in Alberta and a major accomplishment to have the conference outside Ontario for the first time.  The event was very professionally hosted by the Calgary Zoo and Botanical Gardens and featured an inspiring key note address from Gwenn Fried at the Rusk Institute in New York.  The conference provided the wonderful and rare opportunity to meet with people from across Canada who also have a passion for Horticultural Therapy.

I had the opportunity to present with HTM Christine Pollard the HT 101 and HT 102 workshops, designed for those new to Horticultural Therapy (HT) to get an introduction to the profession, where it is practiced and educational opportunities.  I spoke specifically about my own journey as a student working towards professional registration with the CHTA and touched on my experiences with the Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Certificate, volunteering with the Julien Project and my six month internship at Providence Farm.  I was pleased to find out afterwards that there were in fact a number of people at the conference who were looking to get started with their HT education and found the information provided very useful.  

The two day conference had a theme of “Building Connections in Horticultural Therapy” and saw presentations delivered by art therapists, music therapists, physiotherapist, recreation therapists, labyrinth facilitators, horticulturalists and landscape architects.

During the conference, the CHTA held its Annual General Meeting for members.  I was nominated for the position of Education Coordinator on the CHTA Board and officially joined at this time.  My focus will be to get Education Guidelines approved before 2009, which I believe is critical to building the credibility of our organization.  I look forward to working together with the Education Committee and Board of Directors to come to agreement on something we can all promote and be proud of.  Feedback from those invested in horticultural therapy in Canada is always welcomed.

growing a healing garden

As of August, the Alberta Children’s Hospital has hired my fellow classmate, from the Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Certificate, Rebecca Feasby, as a horticultural therapist.  Rebecca is currently working with the Impatient Group Program, Nephrology Clinic and the Dr. Gordon Townsend School on site. The work is part of a larger Therapeutic Arts Program that includes Music Therapy, Art Therapy and Horticultural Therapy.

Last Friday, before the CHTA Annual Conference, I was toured around the hospital by Becky, with Gwenn Fried from the Glass Garden at the Rusk Institute in New York.  We had a lot of fun preparing Greek salad, with students from the school, using fresh herbs from the raised containers (above) and the creative juices were visibly flowing in the Nephrology Clinic as patients began designing a future outdoor garden space.  The Children’s Orchard, right on hospital property, provided a tasty afternoon treat.

New Horizons Bosnian Garden

I was so inspired after attending a community picnic at the New Horizons Bosnian Garden located in Tom Riley Park (west-end of the city).  I got to take part in the delicious lunch consisting of tables full of homemade Bosnian delights.  Thank you to my friend Zora, who is the Garden Coordinator, for the special invitation.

In only its second growing season, the production of food at this community garden for seniors is incredible.  The main goal of the garden is to reduce the isolation of seniors and from the turnout, picnic tables overflowing, it is evident that a real sense of community pride has been established for all involved.  Funding for the garden comes from Social Development Canada under the New Horizons for Seniors Program and strong support from City of Toronto Parks.

farm running club

I was just beaming when I received an email update and photo last week from a friend and outstanding volunteer at Providence Farm, who has graciously taken over the coaching role of the running club since the completion of my internship.  The news came that the runners had made it to the first lookout point on Mount Tzouhalem and were rewarded with a great bird’s-eye view of the farm.  They are so very close to the original goal, established in the spring when we started running, to reach the cross on top of the mountain. I felt so proud hearing that the group had been able to sustain itself and of their continued uphill efforts.

The weekly running club was established to provide two young men with a healthy recreational activity and a tool to manage stress.  I was so impressed by their commitment to creating a team and supporting each other despite having very different physical abilities.  They learned to follow a routine, warm-up, run their hearts out, cool-down and stretch.  Within weeks of working out together, they were easily outrunning me and I had to start doing more coaching from the sidelines.  They ran on farm lanes and through wooded areas, each step becoming more familar with the surrounding land.  Running and horticultural therapy came together as there were many great opportunities for identifying various native plants along the way and we would bring back samples of plants unknown to look up in a local plant guide.

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