Community

I have been thinking about this post for the last few weeks, turning it over in my head, trying to think about what images to include.

It was supposed to be a heartfelt homage to the folks I farm with and generally up-beat. However, can't have the good without some misfortune.

I wanted to write about how I found fantastic community in the urban farming scene in Toronto. How inspired I was recently at a community meeting with some hard working urban ag leaders. How one of my fellow farmers helped me fix an irrigation problem the other week and afterwards gave me his adjustable wrench and I literally burst into tears after receiving such kind and generous assistance.

But its hard this morning for me to stir up the warm and fuzzies after the news this weekend. I'm hoping writing and sharing will help.

Saturday morning I noticed 3 flats of seedlings missing. I'm a bit harried this time of year and so are so many around me, I figured it was a mistake but I was worried. The seedlings weren't mine. I was plant-sitting and ultimately they were supposed to go to community gardens in the city.

Then I realized the bikes were missing.

And this morning: a phone call from my friend saying someone cut a hole in the side of the greenhouse, stole all the wheelbarrows, a bunch of harvest knives, the weedwacker, and so many random things we figure its a bunch of kids up to no good.

I'm relieved the didn't steal more expensive equipment or trash the place. But I have to admit, my spirits are really low.

Downsview Park is a strange, strange park. Federally owned, run by multiple corporations that the bureaucracy will make your head spin, and then a bunch a renters, like me, and on the ground staff. The surrounding area has its rough neighborhoods. I don't feel particularly safe on my own there in the evening. However, I thought things were going better with our neighbors. Less theft, more people stopping by to talk and ask questions, and we're hoping to run farm gate sales this year.

But stuff like this gets me seriously down and makes me wonder what we should be doing better or can we do anything better to create better relationships and community.

At the farm, amongst our member farmers, we have really been trying to foster interdependence, independence, good communication, fairness, understanding and trust. We've also been trying harder to improve the ecological community at the farm: planting for pollinators, improving our treatment of the soil, etc. But I wonder in focusing so much these last few years on our own small community, we've shied the greater one around us. Because frankly, its a much more complex and difficult one to engage with.

Urban farms and urban farmers are often transient. Available land in cities is only waiting for a new purchaser. Our farmers move according to job opportunities or adventures. I myself will be seeking larger fields at the end of this year.

I think that's why I am so deeply sad. I know I shouldn't but I take this theft personal. Not that I'm angry at the people who stole, but angry at myself that in my time at the farm, I didn't engage more boldly with the surrounding community.

I have some ideas, small ones that I will try to get moving in my short tenure left. I know its not all on me, but I should do my part. Reorient, reorganize, and try to make of the best of my time left.
 

Update: Over the course of the 2015, there were over 4 break-ins at the greenhouse. Work continues to discourage these acts and to foster community and communication in and around the park.