Community Resilience

Funding level: $50,000 to $100,000


We currently have an extremely successful community garden project that has been a valuable part of the community for the last 5 years. The garden project sits on a previously unused surplus piece of park land, leased to us by the City of Owen Sound. What started as a few raised garden plots, built on an abandoned tennis court has grown to 69 raised beds, a greenhouse and a large compost area. The gardens are cared for by 12 paid seasonal employees, all of whom live with diagnosed mental health issues. For many of our gardeners, this is their first job and some have returned each summer since the start of the program. In addition to desperately needed employment opportunities, the garden provides an abundance of fresh produce for our agency's daily Brunch Program which feeds up to 60 individuals in Owen Sound 12 months of the year. New this year, we were able to provide additional raised beds to anyone in the community who wished to have their own gardens.
Through this project, Owen Sound has already positioned itself among the leaders of community based food security and wellness in the country! So one would think we would be content to end there.
However, about a year ago a couple of things happened. We got connected with Thomas Dean, a well travelled, well versed, amazingly skilled Horticulture Therapist who had recently relocated to our region. He introduced us to the concept of a Food Forest or Edible Urban Forest – a type of garden that is created to simulate a woods-like environment which allows the various plants to work together to create a garden ecosystem that is intricately designed to promote long-term, sustainable growth. Thomas had previously been involved in creating a Food Forest for a British Columbia branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and had witnessed the amazing benefits first hand. Around the same time, we got introduced to the concept of Community Food Centres and their ability to meet the growing need for food security to impoverished, precarious, marginalized populations. Community Food Centres are a relatively recent movement offering multifaceted, integrated and responsive programming in a shared space where food builds health, hope, skills and community.
We can certainly benefit from more of that in our community! We are a small community with some of the highest rates of substance abuse issues, poverty, chronic illness and unemployment. If any community could use some support in building hope, health and community, it’s ours. We got so excited about these 2 concepts and how they could take our humble but mighty “Community Garden” to the next level. We spent the next 6 months meeting, learning, researching, reading and arrived at this amazing plan for a Food Forest for our community.
And that's what brings us here!
Our plan is to create a space where members from all walks of life can gather to garden and harvest healthy, respectful food.
Features of the Food Forest Include:
- An Edible Labyrinth
- A fruit and nut orchard
- An outdoor classroom
- Raised Gardening beds
- Living Walls - Growing Herbs, and Strawberries
- Raspberry and Blueberry Bushes
- Elderberry and Shrub Cherry Bushes
- Bee-friendly plants and flowers as well as bee hives.
- It will have accessible components for those with mobility issues.
The garden will be completely self-sustaining with its own water source, an expanded composting program and washing station/potting table. Finally, to help us remember those we have lost to their own mental health challenges, the Food Forest will feature a memorial tree plot with a beautiful Arbour.
The hope is that through the Food Forest we can rehabilitate our local ecosystem, improve local food security, provide educational opportunities about gardening and agriculture and celebrate growing healthy food for the benefit of the Owen Sound community.

Broker supported
McConville Omni Insurance Brokers Ltd.

Canadian Mental Health Association - Grey Bruce Branch

Location: Owen Sound