From a Water Tower to a Community Garden

An old, rusty water tower that used to occupy the site of the Roots of Scarborough East Community Garden at East Scarborough Storefront. Images of the garden and people gardening

Celebrating 20 Years of Community-Building in 2021

31 March, 2021
posted by Nadia Heyd – adapted from our “Doors Open” Stories, 2016

In 2021, East Scarborough Storefront is gearing up for our 12th season of community gardening. It’s hard to imagine the time before our beautiful garden was in this space, because what used to be there was a disused, rusty old water tower. Can you guess what planted the seeds for change?  The desire of people in the community to have a garden! 

In 2008, the City of Toronto agreed to remove the water tower. The tower was removed section by section over a period of about a week. At the time, local youth were working on community arts projects at The Storefront, and they would watch every day as more and more of the structure would disappear. It was a great opportunity to talk together about how the structures around us help us connect to a place. 

The water tower was a local icon, a landmark that helped orient people. Although it was no longer functional, it played a real role in terms of people feeling connected to the place they were living in: young people would meet up under it, and there are even stories of some intrepid souls climbing to the top of it. It lived large in reality and in legend. 

When it was dismantled, it changed the way people saw the space, and it became important to make sure people had a new connection to the place. Local residents who had come from cultures in which agriculture was a key part of life expressed interest in gardening, and a process was undertaken in which residents participated in the design and development of the Roots of Scarborough East (ROSE) Garden. 

The ROSE Garden has more than 30 plots, allocated to community members living in the apartment buildings on Galloway, Kingston Road & Orton Park. Several beds are reserved for community groups and volunteers wishing to grow fresh produce for our local food bank. 

The garden provides an opportunity for local residents to learn and practice gardening, to connect with green space and to build connections with others with similar interest. For many families, the ROSE Garden is an important source of affordable fresh produce. 

Never doubt for a moment that your community’s desire to grow a garden together can make change.  It most certainly can! And it is the kind of change that brings about even more than food and beauty.  Gardening together can bring about a sense of belonging and community, and that’s something worth growing at any time!

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