Dr. Shirley Thompson -Natural Resources Institute
204‑474‑7170  |  s_thompson@umanitoba.ca

Stephanie Fulford

My home is located in the 'West End' of Winnipeg, Canada, a neighbourhood of great contrasts. From my window, I can see the office towers where some of the wealthiest people in the province work, with fortunes that grew out of the productive fields of the surrounding prairies. Nearby in another direction is the University of Winnipeg, where thousands of students come and go in their quest to obtain knowledge. And surrounding me on all sides is an incredibly diverse neighbourhood, with old Portuguese couples that have lived here for 40 years, and young Ethiopian families just recently arrived in Canada. At one end of the block is a Vietnamese restaurant, at the other is an Italian deli. The neighbourhood has many Aboriginal residents, and a sizeable Filipino community. It is a vibrant, beautiful place, full of history, charm and spirit. It is also a neighbourhood dealing with high levels of poverty, substance abuse, crime and gang activity.

I have lived in the inner city of Winnipeg for the past six years, and for the most part, the problems associated with these neighbourhoods I have experienced only peripherally. In many respects, when I walk the streets of my neighbourhood, I am walking different streets than many of the other people who live here. I am white, university educated, and have a strong support network of family and friends. I earn a liveable wage, have stable housing and good health. These characteristics place me in a position of relative advantage in our society, and as a result I experience these same streets very differently. In contrast, the places where I have felt most connected with others, and the most integrated into my community has always been in the area's community gardens.

In these informal spaces, incredible things are growing. Community gardens provide a place of gathering for an area with little green space. They provide a source of pride and accomplishment for involved residents. They offer an opportunity for conversation and friendships to grow between people who might otherwise pass each other on the street without comment. They are a source of fresh, healthy and safe food, in a neighbourhood with high levels of food insecurity. And finally, they are urban, outdoor classrooms, a space for young people who may have never visited a farm to learn about how food is grown. Having experienced all of these things first hand, I have a strong love of community gardens, and believe in their value to communities, including my own.