Att. Bytown Urban Garden
CCHC, 420 Cooper St. Ottawa, ON
Bytowne Urban Gardens (BUGs)
In September 1996 University of Ottawa medical student Stuart Taylor returned from a Montreal meeting of the American Community Garden Association to learn of a review by the Canadian Environmental Network's Youth Caucus. The Ottawa Youth Bioregion Initiative assessment of the local bioregion emphasised a need for more ecologically sustainable food production and protection of bio-diversity. To build upon this work, Stu and some friends from the Church of the Ascension decided to form a "home-based" not-for-profit gardening organization called Bytowne Urban Gardens (BUGs).
In the spring of 1997 the BUGs Working Group, Stuart (M.Sc. Epidemiology candidate), Dwayne Hodgson (M.A. Development Studies), and Kira Rowat (an agronomy student at the University of Guelph), approached local politicians Jim Watson, Elisabeth Arnold and Diane Holmes and found them enthusiastically supportive. BUGs obtained funding, "in-kind" support and growing space.
The Working Group began looking for gardeners through the Centertown Community Health Centre, English as a Second Language (ESL) program run by the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, and a "Coffee & Conversation" group run by local churches. Low-income people and new immigrants were thereby enabled to participate. Twenty interested persons met for the Catherine Street project. (BUGs also organized two other projects no longer extent, the small Wesley garden on Main Street and a composting outreach project in Ottawa East.)
For the CSCG, BUGs provided all necessary tools, seeds and bedding plants; negotiated access to water donated by the YM-YWCA and obtained finished compost. After soil testing was done, three-metre-squared plots were cleared and rotor-tilled. Materials obtained via grants and in-kind donations went to build a shed and fence, labour being supplied by the gardeners themselves, in lieu of fees. Included in the plans was a plot for a YM-YWCA Youth Group and a plot solely for donating produce to "Centre 507", the local emergency food centre. The latter accommodated ten people on a waiting list for individual plots.
Beginning in the winter of 1997-98, educational activities included a five-part learning series on organic gardening, From Snowing to Growing. Over sixteen workshops presented a variety of topics related to food security, including protecting bio-diversity, food preservation, participatory garden theatre, composting and a supermarket tour.
In 1997 BUGs joined with the Carlington Community Health Centre garden and other community gardening groups to form the Community Gardening Network of Ottawa/le Reseau de jardins communautaires d'Ottawa (CGN/RJC)[**LINK**] to share ideas, co-operate on projects and to promote community gardening at the regional level.
The 1998 growing season saw the CSCG group formed a structure to organize work and social activities. Stuart and Kira married and moved on to jobs in Winnipeg. Dwayne continued managing the garden and passing on responsibilities to participants until his departure with his wife for work in Africa in the fall of 1999. Since then CSCG operations are overseen by a Steering Committee composed of eight members. The garden is flourishing.