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Growing our community: U of T Scarborough’s Residence Centre sprouts collaboration

Residence students take some time out from academic life to tend to the community gardens.

The University of Toronto Scarborough’s Residence Life Program initiated its own community garden this year. Sprouted from an idea to foster environmental and community building, the garden brings new life to a formerly unvisited space.

“For me, gardening is a soul-providing activity,” says Michelle Verbrugghe, director of student housing and residence life. “I think it’s also a great skill to learn.”

Verbrugghe has been gardening for most of her life, having learned from her parents and grandparents, and enjoys sharing her knowledge with U of T Scarborough community members. This season, the Residence Community Garden hosts vegetables and herbs including tomatoes, peppers, string beans, basil and dill.

Hassan Shahid is a U of T Scarborough student living in residence this summer and he grew up gardening with his father in Dubai. “We would get up at dawn to escape the scorching sun and garden for hours until it was too hot to go on.” While the Canadian environment provides cooler conditions for gardening, Shahid loves the opportunity to pass on gardening tips he learned from his father and the opportunity to continue this skill while attending University.

“It's more than just growing plants; we learn from each other, exchange ideas, implement suggestions and plan ahead for the next season,” he says.

The garden is a result of the collaborative efforts of many staff members including Tony Howe who suggested installing a rain barrel to enhance sustainability of the garden, and Nisbeth Ahmed and Andrew Reslinski who contributed perennials from their personal gardens.

The purpose of the garden extends beyond sustainability and learning, and provides an important link to positive mental health. “Through this project we can help students step away from the stress of academics while contributing to something meaningful,” says Verbrugghe.

The vegetables and herbs grown over the summer can be picked by those who contribute to the garden. In September, Student Housing & Residence Life will be hosting a harvest event where those involved will eat the remainder of the crops.

Shahid is actively engaging students to assist with the garden and hopes they enjoy the experience it provides. He says, “Gardening makes me appreciate the effort it takes to grow fruits and vegetables, to always be thankful and never take the abundance of food we have today for granted.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough