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The MacGregor Park Teaching Gardens Final Report for the Live Green grant

CELOS & MacGregor Park Art Club

Nov.8, 2017

Final Report - Michelle Webb Deveaux

1. Project Update in terms of the following:

a) Detailed description of the project activities undertaken;

Since last reporting the MacGregor Park Art Club has continued to collaborate with multiple community partners on a “Park Improvement and Beautification Project”.

This year (and last) the Edible Plant Teaching Garden & Native Species Viewing Garden were visited by Toronto Recreation Program Summer Camps every Wednesday through the summer program season. The programing included a very popular ‘edible garden’ program, discussions of pests and pollinators, activities teaching about water conservation, and soil testing. The program became so popular that additional dates were added. An overview of programming is attached to this report as appendix A.

Weekly campfire programing at the park (held Mondays in July and August) included a garden component. This was a time where local residents could drop in and browse the seed library, participate in weeding, watering and plant care. Often food was harvested from the garden to be shared as part of the campfire program. When opportunity, time and supplies permitted, workshop style programming could be provided at this time. E.g. upside down tomato planters (due to an excess of tomato seedlings).

In the spring, summer, and autumn of 2016, and spring and autumn of 2017, local families participated in the “Garden Club”. The club was held Saturdays in 2016 and twice on Mondays and Wednesdays, after school in 2017.

In the spring garden club participants helped plant both seedlings and seeds. They participated in watering, preparing natural fertilizers and/or pesticides made out of soap, epson salt or peppers and installing housing for solitary bees. In the autumn, patrons helped with harvesting, seed collection, and general garden care. In the spirit of the art club, there was often and art component to the programing. Some examples included making paper and embedding leaves and petals from the garden, designing labels for collected seeds. The season culminated with a community potluck.

The request to the Live Green Toronto Community Grant was for Green Infrastructure funding. Plant materials for the three gardens both this year and last were acquired through the funding. Accessible beds and willow edging were completed in autumn of 2015. The shed was also completed in the summer of 2017, and was outfitted with a rain barrel to be used for the garden. In the autumn of 2017, perennial, native, edible bushes were planted in the area around the shed and garden. Children and adults have made great use of hand tools purchased through the funding, including toddlers who spent many happy afternoons watering with children’s watering cans, teenagers who helped shovel compost and mulch into wheelbarrows, and adults who built wooden trellises for climbing plants.

b) Status of achieving goals/objectives of the project;

Last year there was much evidence of the two-fold project goals being achieved. In 2016 he diversity of plant life in the park was vastly increased. This has been maintained with some challenges (mentioned in the below section). The pollinator garden fared beautifully this year. It’s success was due, to the abundance of rain this season as well as the initial thoughtful planting and mulching. Both gardens are lively and diverse and have attracted many different beneficial insects. This is attested to by participants observations and our growing collection of specimens.

The goal of mitigating “Nature Deficit Disorder” has also been expanded upon this season. Not only have all of the regular art club members from last year returned to the garden (with some new ones) but the recreation program expanded. Unlike last year, each week the recreation program was fully booked and often with large groups and extra sessions needed to be added to accommodate the demand.

Students from the neighbouring High School and their faculty are further invested in expanding the programming. These students have helped sort seeds, build fences, plant, harvest and will in future be starting seedlings for the garden.

Most people walking past the garden ask facilitators about it. The response is almost entirely positive.

c) A description of any challenges/opportunities encountered and program modifications made to address them.

This year’s main challenge was the illness of the MacGregor Art Club’s (Botanicus Art Ensemble’s) Artistic Director, Kristen Fahrig. Kristen is the driving force behind this project and her illness required shifts in overall programming. City of Toronto Staff took over all onsite programming from June to the early November 2017. This required that the Saturday Art Club be cancelled through the summer season and that Art Club activities in the fall and spring became part of the Recreation Staff program hours, after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. Thus, there was no time to plan a harvest festival, so instead a community potluck was the culminating event of the season.

Another challenge was the partnership with the Dovercourt Boy’s and Girls Club dissolving. Although the club agreed to continue the partnership and maintain programming on Wednesday’s through the Summer of 2016, the club never came to the garden and Botanicus Art Ensemble staff and volunteers took over that section of the garden.

Other challenges include theft from the garden in the form of entire plants being taken after being planted as seedlings in the spring. The City of Toronto graciously replaced some of the lost greenery, which was very much appreciated. This did result in a reduction in overall plant diversity. Our future efforts to ensure maintained diversity include planting extra seedlings through our partnership with Ecole Secondaire Toronto Ouest.

The garden also struggled with some damage/vandalism. Some of the carefully constructed willow edging were damaged at the beginning of the season. Some were repaired and others were replaced with attractive, more durable edging. It seems some of this damage was done by garden participants, being unruly in the space over the winter season. Addressing this issue has included education and outreach to other park participants. Indeed, local dog walkers come through the green space beside the garden on a regular basis and some have volunteered to keep an eye on the space when staff or other participants are not there.

One of the challenges and opportunities that presented itself is the garden as a destination for camps. This year (due to the support from the Recreation Supervisor) the camp program was a smashing success. However, last year, The MacGregor Art Club/Botanicus Art Ensemble had funding to support the Camp Program in the form of another gardener. This year, the program was solely run by a single City of Toronto Staff person. With large groups this was a challenge, and the program was less smooth as a result. Also, there are limits to the number of tools and other supplies available at any given time. There is limited seating making fitting in large groups (over 20) a challenge. Future planning will need to take this into consideration. This year it was addressed by dividing the groups, though this was difficult as there was only one garden facilitator and required depending on camp leaders, who may or may not have fully understood the activities being presented.

d) Describe the single most positive and negative aspects of the project;

The most positive aspect of the project is the returning families and children who truly love the Garden, and are always ready to provide support.

The most negative aspect of the project, may or may not be entirely project related, but it is accepting the imminent loss of the guiding force of this project and planning for the future of the garden taken into consideration Kristen’s legacy, her primary goals and visions, and doing this without her energetic contributions.

e) If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

2. Project Results

a) Provide a description of the results that you have accomplished.

Two of the three gardens (edible and native species) have been built, planted and cared for through two growing seasons.

Ongoing Garden Club, Camp, and Campfire Programs have been designed either around these gardens or in collaboration with them. These programs are well attended and widely enjoyed by community members.

Partnerships have continued to be fostered and maintained with the City of Toronto and Ecole Secondaire Ouest Toronto.

The perimeter fence for the Edible Garden has been installed.

Harvest Festival for 2016 planned and held. Tradition of Culminating event to end the garden season upheld in 2017. This was a broom making craft (using broom corn/sorghum from the garden) and a community potluck.

Garden Club participation in a Pollinator Flash Mob at Big on Bloor 2016.

A garden shed has been completed with a combination of Live Green Funding and funding from Councilor Ana Bailao’s office.

The MacGregor Park Art Club has incorporated (now called Botanicus Art Ensemble) in order to be eligible for more divers funding for creative art/garden programming.

Garden designs were adapted with input from Lennox Morgan (Parks Supervisor), Morgan Zigler (Eco Builder) and CELOS accessibility consultant. Accessible beds have been constructed, main garden pathways and entrances are wide enough to accommodate wheel chairs.

Cement planters and curbs removed (for Pollinator Garden) and a temporary fence has been installed awaiting completion of the construction of the condominium project west of the garden.

9 trees planted by horticulture.

Amendments added to soil.

Several edible berry bushes planted (or transplanted) around the Edible Garden Site.

Parks Supervisor provided logs for a sitting circle to be used as our outdoor classroom and meeting spot.

Arranged for 3 diseased cherry trees to be removed.

Hedges now trimmed at beginning of summer season (instead of end).

b) How do the results of your work compare with the objectives identified in the proposal?

Almost all objectives have been met.

Most of the planned infrastructure projects have been completed including - Building a shed - the installation of an edible garden (including accessible raised beds, stone herb spiral, fencing and accessible gates and pathways, - the installation of a pollinator garden - a seating/program area - Organizing a inventory of adult and child sized tools, gloves, watering cans etc.

In addition our site includes: - A rain barrel and water conservation system.

Infrastructure still to be completed includes the arbour archway and permanent fencing for the pollinator garden. These items were not part of the Live Green Funding, however there are plans in place to complete both projects.

Also, most of the planned programs and projects have been actualized, including: - Regular “Garden Club” activities. - A partnership with the City of Toronto running programming for City Camps and supporting a weekly campfire program. - A partnership with Ecole Secondaire Toronto Ouest, where they now will be starting seedlings through the spring for planting and working on the garden, and completing the fencing for the pollinator garden. - A Hallowe’en focussed event including a blacksmith demonstration (2015) - A Harvest Festival (2016)

c) How do you measure success and how have your contributions led to specific measurable results?

The site has been transformed. Where there was once an underused green space in the shadow of a large hedge, there is now a beautiful, abundant garden, shed and seating area. Members of the community have expressed their enjoyment of the space and their appreciation of the programs.

3. Learning Outcomes:

a) What have you learned from undertaking your project?

We have learned how to make an outdoor space accessible to people of varying abilities.

We have learned about different pests that will invade an urban garden space and have researched and put into practice various method with which to address them in an organic and child/community friendly approach.

We have re-learned the importance of long term financial support for non-profit projects such as this. This is an essential element, in combination with partnerships and collaboration, in maintaining longevity of a project. If organizational energy needs to be spent in applying and reapplying for financial support the project can lose it’s focus, especially at times when key project organizers get sick, move jobs and/or other changes occur.

To further address funding complexity, we have learned better what are needs are through the process of having to puzzle together funding. For instance, we had separate funding options for labour and plants, and the grant timelines did not match up. This resulted in having lots of plants and no money to pay someone to plant them. This was not simply a problem of having separate funding silos, it is also the reality that implementation of a project is often different that envisioned.

In specific reference to our project, we learned we did not initially need as much money for plants as previously estimated, as we were able to access plant donations from many different sources. Yet, while those sources were readily available in 2016 (when we had more staff, partnerships and programming) they were less accessible in 2017. That year we relied on the funds to purchase plants, because we lacked the staff hours to build community interest and excitement leading up to the garden season.

b) How will you apply your lessons to future projects?

It may change approaches to funding strategies, perhaps by seeking longer term funding that is more holistic in its design.

With this project going forward we will focus on partnership sources for plants, as they are an expensive and essential part of a garden, their costs can be varied and impacted by donations, theft and natural factors.

4. Quantitative Data:

a) Provide an estimation and calculation of greenhouse gas emissions reductions and/or improvement in local air quality.

b) Provide other measureable results of the project.

5 Qualitative Data

a.) Provide information on the demonstration of impact of your project.

Many letters have been compiled into a beautiful thank you card from community members and partners. This card speaks volumes of their heartfelt appreciation for the garden and the program’s Artistic Director, Kristen Farhiq. I have sent this card to Kristen at this time.

Feedback from outreach regarding changes to the park and building, not specifically related to the garden, are outlined here: www.BotanicusArt.com

6. Goals/objectives of the Live Green Toronto Program

a) How has your project contributed to the goals and objectives of the Live Green Toronto program
b) How has your project contributed to city-wide/provincial/national campaigns or strategies for mitagating/adapting to climate change and improving local air quality in Canada

7. Long-term Sustainability:

a) Describe your plans for long-term sustainability of the project now that Live Green Toronto funding is complete.

Admittedly the long term plan of this project in it’s current format is going to be impacted by the loss of Kristen Fahrig.

There is also some uncertainty about how the Garden will operate next year, due to construction on both MacGregor Fieldhouse and Splash Pad.

However, there are clear connections and partnerships in place that can provide stability and continuity for this Project.

Firstly, the City of Toronto has dedicated staff hours to the garden. This year, the garden was able to maintain aspects of its programming through the support of the City of Toronto Staff and Supervisor. This is a mutually beneficial relationship as City of Toronto Camps get much enjoyment from the Wednesday Summer Programming.

MacGregor Art Club/Botanicus Art Ensemble’s ongoing partnership with Ecole Toronto Secondaire Ouest will be key in the future sustainability of the Project. They have pledged to incorporate starting seedlings (each spring) as part of their science, environment and other programs. The also hope to participate in the continued maintenance of the garden. This is an ideal place for high school students to volunteer for required hours. The school’s location (next door to MacGregor park) and their multifaceted interest in the garden serves to cement this partnership.

b) What are the anticipated results of the project in the next 5 years or beyond?

The park is undergoing renovation over the next year, it is still not determined whether there will be a full garden program in 2018. However, The MacGregor Art Club/Botanicus Arts Ensemble is dedicated to completing the Arbor Archway Project and the City of Toronto has committed to caring for the garden through the renovation and beyond. There is also a very stable relationship with the Ecole Secondaire Toronto Ouest. Thus, existing programs should run similar to the way it did this year, in years to come. Further The Board of Directors is contemplating the next steps for the future of the programs.

8. Financial Reporting:

a) Use the budget template to provide a detailed breakdown of the costs incurred to complete your project.

See attached.

9. Project Materials and Products

a) Please provide copies of published media coverage, promotional and communication materials, reports, documents or publications arising from the project.

Please see attached:

Articles: Ava Lightbody: On Wildness: Community and Control in Urban Green Spaces http://rabble.ca/columnists/2017/01/on-wildness-community-and-control-urban-green-space

Flyers (attached): -School Flyer -Saturday Art Club Flyer -Festa Botanica Flyer

Films: Obscurity to Radiance - Building the MacGregor Park Teaching Gardens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrSUB98S7_E

Program Plans (attached) -Program Plan 2016 -Program Plan 2017

Reports (attached): Botanicus Art Ensemble: Program Report 2016

Website: www.botanicusart.com

b) Please submit photos of project participants, events, etc. in electronic format.

Please see attached documents and website.

10. Project Collaboration

a) How did your collaboration efforts contribute to the project?
b) Describe your collaboration activities with a comment on how you measured impact and what results can be traced back specifically to your collaboration efforts?

11. Experience with Live Green Toronto Funding Program:

a) How did you find your experience working with the City of Toronto

I am writing this report in the stead of the person who did the most interactive work with Live Green. That said her (Kristen’s) experience was that Live Green was “fantastic and hands on in their role as funder and supporter.”

I was touched by the genuine concern and quick response from our representative as our situation changed. We are deeply appreciative for the funding, flexibility, sensitivity to our changing situation and overall support that Live Green has provided. Live Green has been an essential part of making this project a reality. Thank you for everything!



Evaluation Framework

Live Green grant budget

Back to CELOS Financial Records 2017 notes

Content last modified on March 16, 2018, at 02:45 PM EST