Residents of the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood welcomed another season of free, locally grown produce from the Common Table Farm this year. The farm, a project of Flemingdon Park Ministry, sits on the property of Our Saviour, Don Mills and has been growing and distributing food since 2017.
This year, Common Table has been growing more than 30 kinds of vegetables, giving fresh produce to 100 seniors and 150 families in Flemingdon Park. “Many of them are newcomers and people who are lower income or experiencing food insecurity,” says Melodie Ng, the farm manager.
The farm is also getting neighbours, youth and kids involved in urban farming. A new program this summer has seen several youth joining the farm a few times a week to learn about urban agriculture, ecological care, composting, and food security and sustainability. Common Table also plans to continue its relationship with Three Valleys Public School next door. Past workshops have seen students planting their own vegetables from seed, taking care of their seedlings and planting them on the farm.
Flemingdon Park Ministry also administers the city-run community garden plots in Flemingdon Park, which allow residents to use a plot of land to grow their own produce. The number of plots increased from 72 to 103 this year. That expansion allowed the ministry to eliminate its waiting list – but a new list has already started.
“A lot of the residents in Flemingdon Park are in apartments, so people don’t have access to land the same way as a homeowner. These kinds of plots are really important spaces for people to have that chance to grow whatever they want to grow,” says Ms. Ng.
Despite its success and its vital role in addressing food insecurity in Flemingdon Park, the Common Table Farm faces an uncertain future. The large grants that kickstarted the farm back in 2017 have run out, and new funding is hard to come by. The farm receives grants for specific projects and equipment, but those funds don’t typically cover wages or operational costs. “We’re trying to save our farm so we can continue next season,” says Ms. Ng.
As they continue to harvest this season’s crop of vegetables, the staff at Common Table are hoping this won’t be the last year they can help their neighbours. “We want people to know what we do here and how many people benefit from what is produced here, and that a source of fresh vegetables may die because of the lack of funding,” says Maria Reolin, executive director of Flemingdon Park Ministry. “Ideally, we would like to find support from the government, but that’s very difficult to come by. Some reliable source that allows us to concentrate on what we know how to do – farming.”
To learn more about the Common Table Farm and support its work, visit www.flemingdonparkministry.com.
The farm will be hosting a Harvest Fundraiser on Sept. 23 with farm tours, tasty treats, music and a silent auction. Lucullus Bakery has offered to match all donations made during the harvest season until the end of September, up to $75,000. Learn more and donate on CanadaHelps.