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“There’s something about taking a plow and breaking new ground. It gives you energy.” Ken Kesey
Hello, we are the Riley Park Potting Studio group and we are heading out into new territory as we join our community partners at Little Mountain Neighbourhood House at the beginning of an exciting new project that promises to engage the community and provide a gathering place to bring people together. Read on and learn more about who we are, what the project entails and our first impressions going in.
WHO ARE WE?
Overall we are a diverse group of students from a variety of educational, professional and cultural backgrounds. Our experience and skills range from gardening, cooking, farming, education, agroecology and health sciences. Although our reasons for choosing the Riley Park project are varied, some common themes that emerged included the desire to learn more about community-based grass-root initiatives, and to contribute to a project that encompasses the ideas of community engagement, sustainability, food security and food justice. We are excited to break ground on this project together with our community partner and look forward to what the coming weeks and months have in store for us. Read on for our individual bios.
Hanne Yager is a fourth year student enrolled in the Global Resource Systems program. She focuses her studies on food security, agroecology and food justice. Prior to her time at UBC, she graduated from the Culinary Management Program at George Brown College. She enjoys using her experience as a chef and farm labourer to engage with communities and youth to improve connections and accessibility to food systems. Hanne is interested in the Riley Park Potting Studio project because she wants to learn more about the administrative side of engaging in community asset based food literacy and food security initiatives.
Rachel Green is a third year student at UBC in the Global Resource Systems program. Her studies have an emphasis on the environment, with a focus on ecology and conservation. She is interested in the connections between community and environmental action and engagement, which is what prompted her to choose the Riley Park project for LFS 350. She is excited to continue exploring these connections through the project and how education in the community can play a role in caring for the environment and outdoor spaces.
Rachel Blundon is currently working towards a B. Sc. in Food, Nutrition and Health with a minor in Commerce, as she hopes to one day contribute meaningfully as a food systems professional by working with food product and agricultural-based companies towards policies and practices that promote environmental and human health. The Riley Park Potting Studio project intrigues her because it combines values and initiatives that she has become particularly passionate about in her studies at UBC, including community development, community food security and the importance of educating the community about the impacts of our current food system.
Catherine Jones is a third year student in the Dietetics program. She has a background in Chemistry and has worked in biotechnology and the drug development field for several years. She also has healthcare experience through volunteer opportunities at community dialysis clinics and hospitals. She has seen first hand what happens when people get sick and the multitude of systems we have to treat disease. Catherine was drawn to the Riley Park project because she believes projects that focus on community health can help improve individual health as well. She is excited to learn more about the grass-roots, community based approach that Riley Park and Little Mountain neighbourhood house employ.
Jennifer Siu is in her final year of Food, Nutrition, and Health. She is interested in food and nutrition as it is so vital to us as humans, and it can allow us to maintain good health, and prevents the development of diseases. She joined the Riley Park project because she is a member of the Little Mountain community and she would love to get more involved in her community, especially when it comes to projects that involve food security and community engagement.
Cayla Boycott is a third year UBC student studying in the Nutritional Sciences program. Her main interest is the role that nutritional components of food has on human health. However, she finds that food is more than alimentary, but also has the capacity to bring different community members together and celebrate healthy relationships with food and each other. She is currently part of a student-run club that manages the rooftop garden space at UBC. They strive to engage the community around the food system by hosting events and workshops that allow people to interact with food, health, cultures, and grow food as sustainably as possible. She was very interested in the Riley Park project because she found that the education plan’s mission to use the garden space to engage the community aligned a lot with what she has found passion for during her UBC career.
WHAT IS THE RILEY PARK POTTING STUDIO?
Riley Park is located in the Little Mountain neighbourhood of East Vancouver. When the Riley Park Community Centre was demolished in 2012, the community lost one of its key gathering places. But out of the rubble came new opportunity as in 2016 the Parks Board approved the creation of a new community garden at the corner of Ontario and 30th (“Riley Park Garden: Story and Philosophy”, 2016). The field house or potting studio in Riley Park will be used to store gardening tools for the garden, but more importantly will act as a key gathering place for the community by offering a place for dialogue and workshops surrounding the themes of food security, food literacy, gardening and community based learning (“Riley Park Garden: Fieldhouse”, 2016.) As part of the field house re-activation, The Riley Park committee needs an education plan totalling 350 hours per year and plans to recruit community members to provide workshops (J. Mackinnon, personal communication, January 23, 2017).
WHERE DO WE COME IN?
We met with Joanne MacKinnon, the Food Network Coordinator for the Little Mountain community, as well as two volunteer members of the Riley Park Field House Education Plan committee. Through this meeting we identified the following possible deliverables for our group to work towards (J. Mackinnon, person communication, Jan 23, 2017.)
- An information sheet about the Riley Park community garden and field house including an invitation for community members to apply to give workshops.
- An application form to be used by community members who wish to apply to give workshops in the field house. This will go on the Riley Park Garden website, be available at the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House and be distributed at key community events.
- Identify potential community partners to reach out to whose values align with the garden’s philosophy, and who may be able to provide workshops. Create a contact sheet of these partners and organizations.
- Identify key community events at which the Field House project can advertise and recruit community members to provide workshops.
- As a group provide 1-2 workshops ourselves.
- Create an infographic that can be used by Riley Park in the future.
We could not have picked a better project to demonstrate the principles of Asset Based Community Development. As described in Mathie and Cunningham’s 2003 paper “From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development”, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) refers to the principle of identifying and focusing on a community’s strengths and allowing citizens to drive development from within the community (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). This is contrast to the traditional needs based approach where outside organizations identify community needs and suggest solutions for improvement. As stated on the Riley Park Garden website, the garden is “envisioned to create community space and social cohesion through participation, education, and events” and will provide a public space for discussion and skills development as well as a place for community members to “leverage collective expertise and local resources” (“Riley Park Garden: Story and Philosophy”, 2016). The field house education plan will play a vital part in supporting these initiatives.
Our discussions thus far with Joanne and the Education plan committee have been all about inviting and recruiting community members to contribute to the education plan. Although they wish workshops to align with their garden philosophy as stated above, they are not looking for particular topics based on the needs of the community and instead are interested in identifying the knowledge and skills that exist within the community already. The garden will also demonstrate principles of food justice, defined as being equal access to good food for all, by providing a space for urban agriculture, improving community self-reliance and also preserving a valuable land asset outside of the corporate structure that dominates the food system (Cadieux & Slocum, 2015). However, in order to keep the community garden and field house workshops within the food justice lens, the Riley Park Garden committee will need to identify and address barriers to participation in the garden and workshops that marginalized members of the community may experience.
While we are all eager to dive right into this project, we need to remember to “shut up and listen” as suggested by Ernesto Sirolli’s Ted Talk (Sirolli, 2012). We are the outsiders in this project and it is not up to us to tell anyone what to do. This advice wasn’t too difficult to follow in our first meeting as we’ve all learned a lot about active listening in our previous coursework and professional or volunteer experience. Also, it’s not very difficult to sit back and listen when you’re first learning about a project. However we need to be careful going forward as it will be tempting to take ownership of the project rather than to continue listening and acting as facilitators. A few of us in the group identified organizational skills as a key strength, however we need to be careful not to over plan and be open to change. As Sirolli says, planning is the death of entrepreneurship (Sirolli, 2012).
The 6 desired objectives listed above are certainly daunting and were very different from what we thought they would be going in to this project. Although the website for the project lists building an education calendar as the key deliverable, we learned in our first meeting that this is no longer the case and we will be more involved in providing the framework for recruiting community partners to provide workshops. This represents a substantial shift in project scope that we were not anticipating, but we are prepared to change focus. Our group is concerned about our ability to accomplish all of the above listed deliverables in the given timeframe. However, we hope that through consultation with Joanne McKinnon and our course instructors we can hone in on what’s truly important and this will be reflected in our project proposal. Since community outreach and surveys will form a major part of our project we do expect that response rate will be a major challenge and has the potential to severely limit the utility of any data we do gather. We also expect that coordinating the schedules of 5 busy students along with volunteers and staff members involved in the Riley Park Field House will be challenging.
We’ve all had plenty of experience reading and writing about concepts like food security, asset based community development and community engagement. Therefore at this stage it’s pretty easy to write about it and anticipate how the project is going to go. However putting it into practice is going to be a whole different story. Riley Park is breaking new ground, both literally and figuratively, in building the community garden and revitalizing the field house. We are excited to join with them and grow alongside them in the process.
“In almost every garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener. ” Robert Rodale
Cadieux, K. V., & Slocum, R. (2015). What does it mean to do food justice? Journal of Political Ecology, 22, 1-26
Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474–486
Riley Park Community Garden: Field House. (2016). Retrieved Jan 26, 2017 from https://www.rileyparkgarden.org/story/
Riley Park Community Garden: Story and Philosophy. (2016). Retrieved Jan 26, 2017 from https://www.rileyparkgarden.org/story/
Sirolli E. (2012, November 26). Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! Retrieved January 26, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXsLtHqfdM