Friday, 22 November 2013

Help! We need somebody...

Planning for the garden is in full swing: the committee is currently redrafting a design plan based on the space and financial support available. The City is clearing a couple of remaining hurdles, including rezoning the land. We are also preparing for a meeting with the Yee Hong Centre, to ensure they're happy with what we're planning for their backyard.

What we need now is people. We need the direct involvement of more Cornell residents and garden members. If you want to see this garden happen and can possibly join as a committee member, please get in touch asap.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Land, ho!

At long last, we are thrilled to announce that the City has approved a site for the Cornell Community Garden: directly behind the Yee Hong Centre, at the corner of Almira and Murray Wilson. This piece of land is currently an underused grassy area, with a few small trees and a bench. The Yee Hong Center has generously offered to help us with water access and are excited to be involved with the garden; we hope that local homeowners will be equally enthusiastic. The next big step is an open-invitation community meeting, to seek input and approval of the garden plan. This meeting will be scheduled in November or December, so watch for details about that as well as when and how we will be signing up members. We plan to begin construction in April and start planting the May long weekend.

Friday, 28 June 2013

A Moving Target

Oh how I wish this post was to announce our location was finalized! Unfortunately, there has been another delay, this time due to the lack of water hookup at the site we requested. This site, which is behind the Yee Hong Centre, near White's Hill and Bur Oak, is ideal for a number of reasons: it is centrally located, currently underused, and has good conditions for gardening. The Sustainability Branch is working hard to get us a water hookup at this location. If that proves to be impossible, we will work with the City to identify other potential sites. In either case, we are hoping to complete construction by the Fall and have everything in place for a full, thriving season in 2014.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Because chives look like this...

"Chives," photo by Rebecca Ratcliffe

Why do we want a community garden in Cornell? Well, you know, there are the catch phrases: Food security. Sustainable living. Livable communities. Nature deficit disorder. Obesity epidemic. There are even the statistics: Lower crime rates. Increased housing prices. These are the official reasons. They are important to articulate, both for our own awareness and for wider public support. 

But really, for me, it’s because chives look like this. Because when we stop to notice that chives look like this, it makes us happier people. Because when we watch these chives sprout up out of the still snowy ground, they taste better on our baked potato. Because when we try just one more time to grow carrots and they never, ever, EVER work, we say silent thanks to those beautiful, unkillable chives for asking so little of us. Because right now I have so many chives in my garden, I wish I had an easy way to share them with others. And because my beets, for unknown reasons, look shrivelled and pathetic and I wish someone would offer to share their bumper crop with me. 

Because it's easy to focus on my chives and ignore your beets. But expanding our gardens beyond our meagre backyards into a public space is a leap of faith that is worth taking: to say I’ll trust you to water when it’s your turn if you trust me not steal all of the green beans in the night... That trust makes a neighbourhood a community. And because it doesn’t matter that most of our kids would never dream of eating a chive; when we show them that food comes from somewhere, when we let them dig and touch and taste, when they become personally invested in the fragility and the strength of growing things, it changes them. It changes the future.

I went and got all ideological, didn’t I? No really, it’s because a chive looks like this.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

This, That and the Other

A few updates from Mission Control:

1) The Community Garden proposal was approved by City Council! We are just waiting to find out where the garden will be. Very soon we will be organizing a public meeting to raise awareness, share design options, and start signing up volunteers for construction.

2) We desperately need one or more volunteers with experience (personal or professional) in landscaping or construction to join the garden committee for this season. Your role would be to advise the group on design and materials, and to supervise the construction days during the summer (building raised beds, fencing, etc). Please email us at if you're interested in helping out. Did I say desperately yet?

3) We're going to start posting regular articles with gardening tips and ideas. If you have anything to share, or if there's anything you'd like to learn more about, please let us know!

Monday, 6 May 2013

One Step Closer!

Exhale everybody: we have received word that General Committee approved the community garden report at today's meeting! For those of you (ahem, us) who have no idea what General Committee means, "General Committee is comprised of all members of Council to consider matters relating to City-owned land and buildings; budget; policy administration and legal matters; by-laws and licenses; recreation and culture, fire and emergency services, the environment, parks, water, waste management, and roads. Recommendations made by General Committee are forwarded to Council for adoption" (from the City of Markham website). That is the next step. Next week, the report -- including the designation of the Cornell Community Garden as a pilot project -- will go to Council for final approval. 
In the meantime, staff from the Sustainability Branch will be setting up a meeting soon to review potential sites for the garden. Getting this information will be huge, because once we know the site we can begin preparations in earnest, including finalizing a design (we have a couple in the works, which we will be sharing soon for feedback!). 
Thank you to everyone who signed the petition and/or wrote in to City Council. We have been heard.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The More the Merrier

With the community garden being discussed at City Council on May 6, we need as many voices in our corner as possible. If you support creating a community garden in Cornell, please

1) sign the petition at
2) write an email to the City Clerk at These emails will be read to council at the beginning of the meeting. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Politics of Gardening

We are fortunate, as residents of Markham, to live in a city that is trying to proactively support environmental initiatives and plan for a sustainable future. We are unfortunate, as a committee, to have begun our planning just as the City was beginning to develop a broad framework for community gardens, a framework that must be approved before they can grant us use of city-owned land. This process has at times been frustrating, simply because we are so manically keen to get things off the ground (and in the ground) now, now, NOW! Ultimately, though, the framework will not only provide us with the land on which to grow but also help ensure we are the first of many successful shared gardens in Markham.

The good news is that the community and allotment garden pilot project (of which our garden would be part) is officially on the City Council agenda for Monday, May 6. It is the last item of the day, but anyone who would like to attend and speak on the subject can do so at 9 a.m. when the meeting starts.

The full agenda and information on how to listen live online as well as how to make a deputation (speak to the committee) are available on the City of Markham website

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Long Germination

It all started with one seed. One idea: to create a community garden in Cornell, a shared space for things to grow, for people to come together, and for our neighbourhood to support a healthy future. This seed was planted by a local mom, Celeste Gagnon Smale, and quickly supported by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. We researched best practices, drafted a proposal to request the use of public land, and then... waited. Waited to see if our seed would grow.

The City of Markham has been doing its own work during this time, planning a policy to help guide and support community gardens in the city. This policy is tentatively slated for presentation at City Council on May 6, 2013, and we hope its approval will allow us to move to the next phase of our project. Citizens are welcome to attend this meeting or email the City ahead of time to offer support for the policy. We will post more details of the meeting when it has been confirmed.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be using this blog to communicate our ideas and progess, and more importantly, to seek the input and involvement of all Cornell residents.