Greenest City Summer 2023 Newsletter - West Neighbourhood House

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Summer is not over yet!

At the beginning of this summer, we could not believe we were already there, planning for the growing season… Summer, summer, summer! It just arrived a few months ago and guess what…Many of us couldn’t wait to enjoy the summer delights and, of course, includes the excitement of gardening together.  Wow, it feels like it was just yesterday, but right now and right here, believe it or not, we have reached the golden month of summer, before fall approaches.  Isn’t it amazing? Well, when you live in a country like Canada that is typically the way you experience the cycle of life – through seasonal changes and nature variations. Welcome August with all that it brings to us…

Upcoming Events 

Eco Planters Workshop

In this workshop, kids and parents will recycle and transform container plastics into eco planters. They will learn how plastics have become an integral part of our global economy, generating huge environmental pollution because on the planet almost everywhere, every day and everybody uses plastic.  Please join us in the Milky Way Garden on Thursday, August 17th from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.





Compost Workshop

Love to garden but getting tired of paying every year for expensive bags of fertilizer? You’re in luck! Greenest City invites you to attend our free informational composting workshop happening Friday, August 18th from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. You will be introduced to two methods of composting – bio-complete composting and food scraps composting. All are welcome and refreshments will be provided. We hope to see you there!





Gardeners Summer Potluck – Sat Aug 26

Coming together and sharing our favorite recipes with others is one of the most exciting events that we are eager to do every year.  Our traditional Summer Potlucks remind us of the importance of food as a way to bridge the differences among a diverse community like ours. It is a tool for inclusion, social justice, civic participation, and community with one another.   It is an opportunity for all of us to generously share not only food but our time together and to know what is happening in our gardens, families, and life…Please save the date and do not miss it.  On Saturday, August 26, we will have our traditional summer potluck at Masaryk Park, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Please sign up here: Potluck Registration Form.

Angela is back!

Many of you may have heard that last year in September, Angela ElzingaCheng left the Greenest City (GC) program because she took on the challenge of a temporary position as the Director of Community Programs (also with West Neighborhood House)!  This summer, we are very glad that Angela has returned to the Greenest City program. We missed her a lot here! Not only will she be the manager of Greenest City, but also of three more programs at the House.  We strongly believe that Angela’s life-long experience in supporting community-growing food initiatives, and her strong commitment to social justice and environmental actions aimed towards improving the well-being of Parkdale residents make her a remarkable Parkdale leader, and an essential asset to the House’s wider scope of work.  Congratulations Angela on your new manager role in West NH!

Summer Students

As most of you know, Greenest City program is mainly run by our placement and summer students, and volunteers. This season we have two summer students through Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ), a federal program that supports non-profit organizations to create quality summer work experiences for young people aged 15 to 30.

They have been working with us since the beginning of July and will be here until the end of this month. Please take some time to learn more about our new temporary staff members:

Roberto Reali is our Environmental Events Specialist. Here in Parkdale, he has been organizing the Good Food Market. Roberto will be attending the University of Toronto in the fall and is passionate about the environment and community building. He hopes to meet and help out as many people as he can this summer here in Greenest City. (Photo in the Market)

“My job mostly revolves around the Good Food Market, which as the name suggests is a weekly food market located in Masaryk Park every Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. It is incredibly rewarding to see the market in full effect after putting so much effort and planning into it. I love seeing the community gather and bond over food! When I’m not working on the market, I am usually helping out in some of the community gardens in Parkdale. I love meeting and working with new people, and seeing how tight knit the community is! I’ve been really enjoying my time at Greenest City, and I am looking forward to the rest of the summer”.

Olivia Smith is our Environmental Program Coordinator. She is a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Environmental and Urban Sustainability undergraduate program (EUS). She has been coordinating and organizing the various workshops hosted by Greenest City and has been supporting our urban agriculture volunteers’ team, and the needs in the HOPE and Milky Way gardens.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you all! Working with Greenest City has been an incredibly fun and fulfilling experience. Meeting new people, while coordinating and supporting the various workshops, has allowed me to apply my educational background in a hands-on way and enriched me with new experiences and practical skills. Introducing pollination and the various kinds of pollinators found in the Parkdale community to the parents and children who attend Greenest City Kids program, as well as, making the most of the growing season workshops, have been some of my favourite thing about working here this summer”.

We also want to highlight here the essential role played by Ayanna Sharma, the University of Toronto placement student who has been supporting us since the beginning of May. Her work has been important in putting together our communication strategy, in the planning process of our ongoing summer activities, and leading the amazing team of volunteers in our Market.

“Hello! My name is Ayanna, and I have been working at Greenest City as the Urban Agriculture and Community Engagement Assistant placement student since the beginning of May. Through Greenest City, I have had the chance to work with many aspects of the programming provided here, including the weekly Good Food Market, kids’ programs, and several other workshops that have taken place since I joined. Making meaningful connections with community members and getting the chance to create a lasting impact on another person or community has always been something that I am passionate about, and being here has allowed me to work towards creating change in the Parkdale neighborhood. I am excited for the rest of the summer here and hope to continue making a difference”

Please stop by and say hello to our summer students! They are here to assist you in their own capacities.

Ongoing Growing Season

The joy of the first harvest, picture this; clear blue skies, golden sunshine, and verdant green parks and gardens. As you stroll down the sidewalk on a warm summer’s day towards your garden plot, you’re excited to see what new and interesting growth has occurred since your last visit. As you unlock the garden gate, approaching your plot, your regular inspection begins. No new damage has occurred while you were gone it seems, but you can’t be sure just yet! Continuing to inspect your precious plants, kneeling, you part the leaves and to your surprise and delight you lay eyes on your first fruit or vegetable of the harvest! All the hard work, gentle tending, and thorough watering has finally paid off! You now get to bask in the literal “fruits of your labour” as you finish watering and weeding, you pick your first piece of produce and begin your trek home, ideas filling your head as you decide how best to enjoy this first of many gifts from nature to come in this growing season.

It is incredibly amazing to see how the gardeners express their happiness and appreciation when they begin to harvest the first veggies in their plots. Their smiles and the twinkle in their eyes communicate experiences that are greater than those things that can be described with words… They tell us the rewarding feeling that came from the hundreds of hours they have spent taking care of the plants, coming every day to monitor their growth, watering them, weeding them, and even having those silent conversations that only gardeners can hold with their plants.

Gardening Workshop: Making the most of the growing season!

On Friday, August 4, we had an amazing gardening workshop with Alfredo Correa, a lifelong gardener and Parkdale resident who worked for over 15 years with the City of Toronto in the community gardens.  Participants from the Milky Way, Hope, Garden St Joseph Garden, and West Lodge Garden got the opportunity not only to gain knowledge of different gardening techniques related to soil preparation, composting, and plant spacing to improve their production in small spaces but also to share some of the challenges and concerns they have faced during this season.

Gardeners were invited to do an on-site observation in a Milky Way bed to identify some of the potential issues due to lack of knowledge during the planting, seedling, or growing season. For this hands-on/activity, a bunch of tomato plants/🍅 were used to demonstrate the importance of spacing, and plant care, including pruning, through to harvesting.


The facilitator also highlighted the value of having good soil and how to improve the nutrient content through the addition of compost.  As the gardeners seemed to be very engaged and asked more questions, we realized that time was limited and each of the topics could be addressed in an individual workshop. Since we certainly believe that education can empower social justice and climate action endeavors, we would like to continue digging deeply into the many ways of learning that can be offered to our community of gardeners. A big thank you to Mr. Correa for sharing with us simple tips and tricks to take care of our gardens.  And many thanks to our dear gardener Esther Marshal from Hope Garden for sharing your feedback on the workshop.

Market Updates!

The Parkdale Good Food Market is back in the park and better than ever! Until the end of August, you can meet us at Masaryk Park every Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Come stop by our produce stand for fresh, affordable, and locally grown fruits and vegetables!

In addition to our delicious produce, the Good Food Market has also been supporting various small, local businesses! Some of our amazing vendors include Sonam’s Tibetan Momos & Noodles, Rahma’s Samosas, Kacy Delights Hair and Body, Apothegeri Candles, Just Clay, Sheileen’s Sweets, Norma’s Jewelry, and many more! You can also find various informational booths from local organizations such as Greenest City, Access Alliance, and Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre! We also have kids’ activities; the Good Food Market is fun for the whole family!

On August 30, the City of Toronto will be tabling at our Market. They will promote a food growing program called Get Growing. This program encourages residents to grow their own food. They will also be sharing information about future programming.

They are hoping to speak to local residents about their experiences and challenges with growing food and collect data (no personal information) via a 5-minute survey, including:

  • Accessing these participants will improve equity in City programming
  • They will be giving away free seeds/reusable cutlery sets to individuals who fill out the survey
  • They will bring everything we need – you won’t have to assist in any way

On August 30 we will also have a community barbeque to close our Parkdale Good Food Market. Don’t miss your chance to experience the vibrance of the Parkdale community with our Market! Keep an eye out for future markets, featuring fresh new vendors and fun surprises. In the coming weeks, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Shazia’s Crafts, Nardo the Barber, Henna Artistry, and a barbecue! Mark your calendars for the Good Food Market, an event you won’t want to miss!

Growing the Future: Greenest City Kids’ Gardening Program

Guided by our dedicated Environmental Program Coordinator, in July, our children’s gardening initiative transitioned from biweekly sessions to a weekly schedule, ushering in a new era of growth and learning. This transformation has blossomed into a family-centric experience, captivating not only the young participants but also their parents, who have eagerly embraced the gardening world. Together, they have nurtured their plots in the Hope and Milky Way gardens, immersing themselves in land stewardship, cultivating edible plants, and fostering pollinator-friendly pollinator-friendly environments.

Within the verdant expanse of the Hope Garden, nearly 30 enthusiastic children embarked on a journey using the square foot method to plant and care for their designated plots. Their collective efforts have contributed weekly to filling barrels that benefit the well-being of all Hope gardeners, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.


In the Milky Way Garden, a unique learning experience unfolded under the guidance of Tibetan elder Sonam Yangzem. Through her wisdom, the young participants discovered the art of direct seeding, the intricacies of nurturing various edible plants, and the importance of proper watering and weeding techniques. The garden also hosted two enlightening cooking workshops facilitated by FoodShare Toronto, which empowered children to explore the Right to Food and savour the fruits of their labour from Mother Earth’s bounty.

The children’s adoration for all things related to gardening—be it seeds, soil, plants, or even culinary creations—has been truly heartwarming. Their enthusiasm extends to eco-art endeavours, culminating in an upcoming event where they will craft eco-friendly planters from repurposed plastic containers.

Follow Greenest City kids garden Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates and check out our hashtag: #greenestcitykidsgarden



At Greenest City, we believe the best way for kids to engage in the entire food cycle is by getting their hands dirty in the soil, planting seeds, harvesting vegetables, and learning basic cooking skills. In June and July, FoodShare hosted the Right to Food series of workshops for youth and parents in the Milky Way Garden. Asam & Ranu, educators from the Community Learning and Engagement Team at FoodShare, facilitated two cooking workshops where we made Vietnamese-style cold salad rolls with a delicious sunbutter sauce, and Mexican style refried bean tacos with a simple Pico de Gallo salsa. The kids loved learning how easy it is to make a nutritious meal from mostly vegetables and different kinds of wraps. We were also able to use some herbs from the garden, which made the food extra special!

Youth and parents also learned about Toronto’s Food Charter, which was passed in 2001 and guarantees the right to food for all Torontonians. Unfortunately, we know that 1 in 5 Torontonians still live with food insecurity, and that number is higher among racialized and indigenous households. The youth in the workshops brainstormed their own food dreams for their neighborhood (ice cream stands played a stand-out role), and we looked at some of the gaps and issues that still need to be filled to make the Right to Food a lived reality for all Toronto residents. To learn more about the Right to Food Campaign, please visit:

West NH Youth Leadership Program:

This summer, the Summer Youth Leadership Program partnered with Greenest City to give youth the opportunity to engage in community volunteer work. The Youth Leaders provided support for Greenest City’s programs and events, such as organizing both the Hope Garden and the Milky Way Garden, preparing art materials for the Kids & Youth Programs, and wrapping baked goods for the Good Food Market. The Youth Leaders strengthened their leadership skills by volunteering in a hands-on environment and learned about the importance of giving back to the community by promoting food equity, environmental justice, and community action. Olivia, the Environmental Program Coordinator, also talked about the different ways green spaces bring communities together and how culture plays a part in environmental community work. Greenest City is a unique volunteer opportunity for the Youth Leaders because they were able to interact with others and see what leadership looks like outside of traditional school settings.

Youth testimonials:

“I’m grateful for being able to be a part of Greenest City! I learned a lot about gardening and how much care is put into green spaces. They also bring the community together which is super nice!” – Natasha

“I’ve learned organization and responsibility while volunteering at Greenest City. It’s a wonderful experience that I think all should be included in!” – Anonymous Youth Leader

Parkdale Free School: Still Life Drawing in the Milky Way Garden 

By Sarah Aranha

It’s hard to believe that August is upon us already. When the Community Still Life Drawing series started in early June, we still had the full summer to look forward to.  I remember smelling the freshly-watered soil at that first drawing session in the Milky Way Garden, a lovely earthy smell. Now two months later, the garden is filled with tall vegetable plants, with some bearing fruit and flowering. Our drawing community has similarly grown over the last two months. We have been adding more and more chairs to our drawing table, as new people join in each session.

I envisioned Community Still Life Drawing as an invitation pause for 90 minutes and to become immersed in a single task – paying close attention to what is in front of us. This could mean paying attention to our drawing skills, paying attention to how we are feeling that evening, paying attention to the person sitting beside us, or paying attention to the well-tended garden we spend time in. It’s exciting that so many folks have responded to this invitation in different ways. At the end of each session, when everyone shows their drawings, there is always an audible gasp of delight in seeing the outcomes of that attention.On August 31st, I’ll be hosting the second last drawing session of the season in the Milky Way Garden. If you join in, you can expect an interesting still life arrangement to spark your imagination, friendly faces settling in with their sketchbooks and materials, some conversation and time to draw in silence, all in a shady “secret garden” in which to savour these last few summer evenings.

Community Still Life Drawing is presented in partnership with the Parkdale Free School. and Greenest City.  Find info on upcoming sessions and sign up via Eventbrite.

Bentway Conservatory : Seedlings workshop

This summer  we got invited to present a workshop in the Bentway Conservatory.  It was an incredible opportunity for us to inform people about our food approaches related to community engagement.

Our facilitator Sayeh Dastgheib-Beheshti, a PHD candidate in Environmental Studies at York University and a passionate food grower, created a multi-species food perspective. This workshop highlighted how edible gardens are successful because they attract pollinators and deter pests so inter-planting with other plants is encouraged. A series of stations were set up to show gardening with food scraps (seeds and parts of vegetables that people already have in their homes) and we concluded the workshop with a hands-on activity on germinating tomato and pepper seeds.
Those specific activities can be taken on in all kinds of dwellings (apartments, homes, communal gardens, schools). Visitors walked away with a sprouted seed, a small pack of soil, and a fiber pot in which they could grow their own seedlings. It was great to interact with visitors at Fort York and reflect on how public spaces can be used to educate people about growing food in an urban setting. Thanks, Bentway team for the wonderful eco-art work you have been doing in public spaces and for having us in your program.

A  big thanks to all our volunteers

This summer we have counted a great number of community members, gardeners, newcomers, and Parkdale collegiate students who have been supporting us during our Good Food Market. Thanks, thanks, thanks to all of you. Without your support and commitment, it would be almost impossible to make our weekly Market.

We have also gotten many volunteers to support our gardening tasks.

Thanks, Melissa and West NH Youth Leader Volunteers for your help cleaning and organizing the HOPE garden shed, weeding common areas, sanding & painting the HOPE garden community sign, and cleaning the Milky Way Garden.

Thanks,  Unilever  Corporate and Erika for volunteering your time with the cleaning, weeding, watering, and pruning areas around the HOPE garden, Pollinator beds, Scouts Garden beds, and Milk Way garden

Children and parents of our kid’s program have been collaborating in the weekly filling up of the rain barrels at  Hope Garden.  Thanks to our growing seeds.

Support West Neighbourhood House this year!

By giving to West Neighbourhood House this year, you will support neighbours to pursue dreams and contend with today’s economic reality. You will also make it possible for the House to continue addressing social issues like housing affordability, social exclusion, and mental health.

Together, we can help people thrive and deal with hard times!

Show your support by visiting

Stay updated with our activities and programs on our social media including our Facebook page and Instagram! To volunteer and connect with us reach us at

Greenest City is a program of West Neighbourhood House. Read more at

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