Community Gardens are Now Essential in Ontario

May is usually the time where the weather is nice enough for people to finally start their gardening without fear of a late season snow fall, or frost. Of course, these are not usual times, and the idea of a community garden made the government a bit weary in these days when we’re supposed to socially distance ourselves. That is until now.

In Friday’s update on COVID-19 at Queen’s Park, the Government of Ontario opened the door to allowing community gardens under certain conditions. “Local medical officers of health will provide advice, recommendation and instructions that the gardens must meet in order to operate, such as physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly used equipment and surfaces,” the statement said.

“I am encouraged that the Government heard the pleas from the people of Ontario, including the 10,000 people who signed the Green Party’s petition, to reopen community gardens with proper physical distancing guidelines in place,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement. “I am happy to see this government recognize that locally grown food should be considered an essential part of Ontario’s food security strategy.”

Schreiner has been pushing the government to amend the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to re-classify community gardens as an essential service, calling them an essential source of food for families and food banks. Ottawa and Kingston already had motions before their city councils to ask the Province to re-open community gardens.

“Growing food will always be essential, and I have been advocating for weeks that community gardens should be granted an agricultural exemption similar to grocery stores to remain open,” Schreiner said in a statement earlier this week. “With the clock ticking on the spring planting season, I hope the government is listening to local groups, municipalities and experts who say we can promote food security and public safety at the same time.”

In Guelph there are 25 different community gardens from orchards, to youth farms, and various different types of flower and vegetable gardens, and some of them are connected to neighbourhood groups who are growing fruits and vegetables for their food cupboards. The gardens are managed by volunteers, and neighbours share the space to grow food, herbs and flowers.

To find a full list with all of Guelph’s community gardens, and a map to their location, click here.

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