African CornCommunity Minds Grow Gardens

People come together to share ideas and support one another’s health and happiness in many ways, but maybe none as powerful as through a shared community garden. The garden is a place of growth, cooperation, change, and prosperity. It takes hard work and dedication to cultivate the soil and grow crops, but the payoff is vastly rewarding. It has a rejuvenating effect for everyone involved and delivers a strong sense of pride that brings smiles and joy, especially at the dinner table.

Community Minds Grow Gardens (CMGG) is a newly formed not-for-profit organization established to address a pressing need in the Ugandan Canadian population of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Social and economic pressures, as well as other disadvantages, have caused this population to disconnect from their farming traditions and have broken down the social bonds between members of this group.

CMGG received funds from Employment and Social Development Canada: Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, to establish a community garden in Mulmur, Ontario.

The project is led by Sarah Sekalala and her husband Phares, with leadership and support from the Board of Directors and several volunteers. This new organization fills a major gap in the social support services for the African Canadian population of the GTA and the surrounding region. Sarah 1

Jamie Doran, helped CMGG raise money and plan a community garden where Ugandan Canadians and other black immigrants can grow food and interact for mutual benefits – solving together the social, economic, and environmental challenges they face.

Sarah and her team worked hard over the summer to cultivate the land and plant rows of crops, including a few traditional crops from Uganda. They also built a small hoop house where they grow serval varieties of tomatoes and set up a drip irrigation system to ensure the plants are sufficiently water throughout the growing season. It’s a place where members of the black community have worked together to grow food but also created a meeting place for teaching, workshops, social gatherings, and activities for the children of participants.

Sarah says, “It creates a vehicle for self-sufficiency and fosters new social connections while it boosts physical fitness, improves nutrition, food security, and mental health.”

Box of veggiesMany African immigrants to Canadians come from farming communities but after arriving in Canada many have lost the ability to grow their own food and connect with other African Canadians through communal farms. CMGG has created a place where these kinds of connections can happen. As the garden grows so will the benefits for the participants.

“Visiting the garden for the first time was magical. I was so impressed with what CMGG built and could see the potential to expand the garden and community programming in the coming years. I really believed in this project from day one.”, says Jamie Doran. “Maybe the best part, Sarah and Phares gave me a box of veggies, including some African collard greens, to enjoy at home. It’s quite remarkable to be able to taste the success of this project.”

For more information please visit CMGG website.