Growing Community


It’s nice to see gardening used as a community-building activity.

I’ve been talking with Helen Poon from the Sprouts Food and Health Co-op in Markham, Ontario about their backyard sharing program. They call it the Sharing Backyard Sharing Fun Program. Right now they have four families who have opened up their yards for co-op members to garden.

Helen says that something as simple as building a raised bed can really foster teamwork. Some of their participants have no building skills or way to transports materials, but are interested in learning about gardening. Other members have building skills—and some have vehicles for transporting lumber and soil. And some have gardening knowledge to share.

As I was writing this blog post, I checked the Sprouts Co-op blog

  • “While sharing backyards, we are also sharing resources and knowledge. With the help of an instructor and engineering member, a single mother now has a raised garden bed in her backyard!”
  • “This is an empowering project sharing the joy of organic gardening. While providing practical application of organic gardening knowledge, this project is also building community and cohesion as friendships and support develops between the backyard owner and the members sharing the garden.”  

I met Helen this spring when she contacted me to see if I could give a talk about vegetable gardening. It was the first time that I’ve had my handout translated for a talk. Helen explained that the first language of most of their members is Chinese, so she had my notes translated into Chinese. But we had no communication barrier—it was one of the most engaged audiences I’ve spoken to in a long time. Our Q+A went for a long time. I left with the feeling that people in the room were serious about growing.   

The Sprouts Food and Health Co-operative (SFHC) is a not-for-profit multi-stakeholder Cooperative. It is a member-owned organization. They have four categories of members: consumers (members who consume our food and services), health practitioners, workers, and community partners.  They go beyond gardening and invite speakers to discuss a wide range of subjects related to health and wellness, and food.

Gardening, food, community, and health. They fit nicely together.