A Commitment to Sustainable Food: Islington United Church’s Giving Garden enters its 7th year
Islington United Church has long been a “green beacon” in its Etobicoke neighbourhood, demonstrating how a faith community can operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The congregation’s work has garnered community recognition including Faith and the Common Good’s Greening Sacred Spaces Award in 2013 and has been referred to as “the greenest church in Toronto.”
After installing solar panels in 2011 and undertaking numerous energy conservation upgrades, Islington directed its focus to sustainable food production. Its Giving Garden was established in 2013.
Currently, the Giving Garden yields 300 kilos of organically grown vegetables each year including chives, kale, chard, zucchini, cabbages, tomatoes, lettuce, fresh herbs, and more. The harvested produce is donated to the Mabelle Daily Bread, Mississauga & Salvation Army North Etobicoke Food Banks. A dedicated group of volunteers manages the planting space (including 425 square feet of raised boxes) and a 1,200 plant indoor nursery, which operates from February to May. Garden volunteers have found the experience of giving back to the community a rich and rewarding one and have appreciated the opportunity to cross-pollinate their own knowledge and skills with the team’s collective wisdom.
“My wife and I moved to the neighborhood last November and when we discovered that Islington United Church had a flower garden and a vegetable garden team that sealed our decision. I found the IUC volunteer environment a very nice and welcoming one where we share knowledge and best practices and learn more about gardening as we go. It feels so good to know we are doing something to give back and it was amazing to see some of the organic methods being used by the green team. These include the placement of nearby bee hives to produce honey and pollinate the plants and the procurement of bat houses to lure bats so that they can feed nightly on the pests which threaten to invade our vegetables.”
“I have been helping at the Mabelle food bank for years. I helped with the planting of the seeds this past March for the first time using my knowledge from my own experience plus picking up new ideas and tips from the team. It is so much fun to work and chat with everyone and adds to the wonderful feeling of reaching out and helping those who are less fortunate than myself. All the clients are so appreciative and thankful for the help they are receiving. This is so totally rewarding!”
Islington continues to seek pathways to becoming a greener faith community. Among other initiatives, a Giving Garden expansion project is underway with the goal of accommodating more veggies and potatoes for use in the congregation’s Out of the Cold program. You can follow the garden’s progress at https://www.islingtonunited.org/Whats-Happening/Green-Team.aspx.
A special thanks to Scotts Canada for their recent donation of red mulch (pictured below)!