City council voted for City staff to develop a comprehensive report of the City’s community gardens process and policy during a Committee of the Whole meeting, held on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
In June of 2019 volunteers from the Downtown Community Neighbourhood Association (DCNA) partnered with Equal Grounds Community Garden (EGCG) volunteers, as well as students from Central Public School to install a community garden on the school grounds.
When the school expanded in 2020, the garden had to be removed and the community lost access to food during a time where food insecurity had been on the rise and continues to do so now.
The DCNA is now looking to re-establish a community garden since a recent playground upgrade has opened up a space nearby.
Councillor Mandy Samwell originally brought forward a resolution that would direct City staff to construct a park service complete with a water source and parks service box once the garden had been approved for the 2024 garden season.
Samwell was looking to have City staff to also retain an appropriate contractor and to fund the cost of $25,000 via the Council Priorities Reserve.
“At this time when the cost of food is continually going up, it’s important to support citizens, to build skills, feed their community and continue to build a sense of connection and belonging. I hope today we can support by helping give them the water that is needed to create a community garden at Central Park.
Councillor Brian Vantilborg supported his wardmate and acknowledged that the community would benefit from the garden and a provided water source.
“I think we all know that those living in a downtown neighbourhood probably need these gardens more than anybody else,” he said. “We need this, we know that, we know they need this.”
Councillors and City staff discussed the current procedure of having a community garden site approved. Requests are accepted prior to April of each year and the locations are then evaluated by a committee before going forward for approval.
To have a water source installed for a community garden, the space must first operate with delivered barrels of water. After the garden proves to be a success within the community and with volunteers after a certain amount of time, a permanent water source can be applied for.
Councillor Van Tilborg noted that because the garden had previously been running in the area successfully that they should be able to get a water source sooner rather than later if approved.
“We know we can run the garden, we know the people will be there. They’ve been there in the past,” he said. “And I’m very, very certain that Equal Grounds will go and say, ‘you’ve got champions, you’ve got people, and you’ve got the need, and it’s good.’”
Brantford Mayor Davis asked Inderjit Hans, Commissioner of Public Works Commission for advice on the matter.
Hans suggested that the City staff look at all of the community gardens within the city to review them and see where they are doing well or not, and to see if more can be done.
“My advice would be that we look at this holistically throughout the city and not just one location at a time,” he said. “I think we need to look at this as a complete network and report back to staff at our sorry, report back to council by the end of the year.”
Councillor Dan McCreary moved to refer the subject to staff for a comprehensive report.
“I will move then that we refer this to staff for the preparation of a comprehensive report to council that would speak to community gardens process and policy city-wide and recommendations about things like water services, supply of buildings, and perhaps some changes to the operating budget and the capital budget to fully support what is clearly a cool thing in the community,” said McCreary. “Samwell has become the advocate for this and I’d like to be able to have her fully supported her endeavors to make this a success and to see this if I may use a bad pun, blossom and grow.”
Council voted 10-1 to refer the resolution with Councillor Van Tilborg voting against.