toronto – all the rest

kind of harsh to lump them all into one post – but i got other stuff to write about, like bikes, cabbage worms, cat poop, redoing the greenhouse floor.  and i’m going to oakland soon, that will give me material for months.

additional tours i checked out – a green roof that i really feel no need to comment on or share, unless y’all are just clambering for photos – in which case i can post them.  it was on top of some fancy health food store.

food share –

i don’t really have any good photos of food share, it was kind of dark in their space.  my attempts to save weight and fit all my stuff into a small backpack meant that i spent this trip sans camera, utilizing the camera on my phone, which i’ve heard many people rave about.  for the record i think it takes pretty lousy photos, and i’ll not be leaving without my camera again.

food share is another one of the projects that i’d heard a lot about.  it like “the stop” is in a repurposed institutional space, in this case a school.  much of food shares programing goes on outside of the space.  they pack thousands of weekly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables which are distributed at community centers throughout the city.  it works sort of like a csa but they aggregate food from multiple farms and round things out with product purchased from the produce terminal.  they offer multiple sizes, as well as an organic box.  in addition to this they do mini fresh food markets in neighborhood which don’t have farmers markets, similar to the boxes, they source food from multiple farmers in order to provide healthy food at an affordable price.  they also provide fresh fruits and vegetables for school breakfast and snack programs for schools both public and private,  they support this with an extensive network of nutrition education.

while this is the most obvious part of what they do,  like at “the stop” it was the little things i liked the most.  the food packing area was largely staffed by youth that were having trouble finding jobs else where.  while most of them seemed like good workers, it was obvious that employing these youth was not easy, i appreciated that they saw the opportunity to employ as part of their mission.  junior m.a.f.i.a. was bumping on the boom box, i liked this place.

down in the basement where they have cooking classes, as well as a catering business, they were employing more youth, creating a somewhat comical enviroment as one youth rush though giggling, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, his armed pinned to his side.  the kitchen manager seemed completely unfazed, as though it were a daily occurence.  the catering company was very careful to stay within their mission mostly catering bag lunches for non-profit gatherings and celebrations, nothing too fancy.

while the packing and cooking facilities were nice, i feel like i would have a much better idea of the work they do if i had been in a class room, at a food box distribution, or one of their markets.  i’d like to see how things are run and what they are like.  perhaps on the next trip.

the last project i toured around was evergreens brick works.

this is the location of the most over the top farmers market i wrote about before. a former brick works left abandoned for years and over taken by ravers in the 90’s.  their  mark can be seen in one of the buildings in the form of massive graffiti, now protected as part of the history of the space.  it was a huge undertaking converting the space to a leed platinum certified space.

it’s the headquarters to evergreen, a nonprofit focused on urban green space, environmental issues, and ecology.  they do workshops, have a garden center, a fancy restaurant, host events, and rent space to several other smaller non-profits.

it’s an amazing space to explore, lots of little strange touches that add to the space. this living wall/sculpture thing is the outline of the city of toronto in rusty steel, with the silver things/plants representing the water in the watershed, water slowly drips down the water ways, and waters the plants.  this makes me wonder what watershed i live in.  soil mounds abound, each one showing species from various ecosystem types.  this area was a chilling area.  it the winter folks can really chill – they flood the floor and it turns into a skating rink.  youth play area – not really a garden, it was more of a youth dirt pit, which as a kid i would like a lot more than a garden – i was a big fan of diggin holes.  it was kind of strange as they had been doing tanning classes so deer hides were stretched in the corner, tepees and huts were tucked into corners, a giant chimney where fires could take place, and of course an outdoor oven!  i imagine dirty faced youth tanning hides with the fire light flickering in the background, silhouettes of youth feeding the raging fires – like some sort scene out of lord of the flies, children allowed to run amok and live out their fantasy.  i want to play there.  this one nicer than most.

outback the landscape opens up to nature trails to explore.  it’s pretty shocking to see such a large expanse of forest in the middle of such a large city, but toronto in general seems to have really valued green space.  
i headed out from the brickworks to catch my train.  i was a bit sad to leave toronto, i’d had a really good time with folks, ate really well, and seen lots of exciting things.

i thought a lot about how i could take back and apply what i’d learned from toronto – but its hard.  they seem to have so much more cash – mostly in the form of high income residents who are willing to support projects.  they seem to have so much of a culture of environmentalism – they have plenty of bike lanes, curbside recycling, and composting!

but i’ll still take detroit any day.  in spite of the struggles – the passion with which detroiters do the work is absolutely inspiring.  no one i talked with connected the work to the mst or la via campesina, or a global people’s movement for food sovereignty.  the greater political struggles were not mentioned.  and certainly race was not discussed.

this might have been the most surprising thing for me – that in a city as diverse and “multi-cultural” as toronto is, that leadership was still largely white.  sure lower positions had people of color, but when i went into office spaces it was still largely white.  i talked about race pretty frankly, about white privilege and its effect on myself and the work that i did – and i as told outright, that pretty much no one is talking about race and privilege and power.  which is kind of crazy, cause it’s on my mind all the time, its in my analysis of all situations and interactions.

i’ve toured around a lot of projects around the country now.  a lot of them very cool, a lot very well thought out.  i often think of detroit’s projects slapped together, somewhat ill-conceived (i’m speaking mostly of the project i work with for the record, no need to get offended), and hanging on by a shoestring.  but i think that might be what makes them so powerful too.  there are no 55 million dollar capital campaign stories, there is no government support.  but there is a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears.  there is a whole lot of leveraging of invisible capital and underutilized resources.  there is a whole lot of creativity, passion,ingenuity, integrity and love.

if leaving detroit does anything for me, it’s refocusing my commitment to this work. i am fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people i’ve ever come to know.  thank you all.


2 responses to “toronto – all the rest

  1. It’s very interesting to hear an outside perspective on Toronto and I’m enjoying your observations. Your comments on racial issues however make me feel a bit defensive. Having grown up near Detroit, I’m well aware of how racial tension has affected the way the city evolved, but I think that’s always been much less of an issue in Toronto. You pointed out yourself how ethnically diverse this city is; it’s matter of pride for us that we are open to embracing as many cultures as possible. I’m not saying that predjudice doesn’t exist here – we’re not that good – but we don’t talk about it much because we’ve never had to deal with the manner of conflict that Detroit did. I like to think of myself as colourblind, as I suspect do most people I know and work with, but perhaps that’s my white privilege talking. Thanks for your insights.

    • Callie, I was slow to respond to your comments- party cause i been busy, but also cause i wanted to talk with some peeps in toronto about their thoughts, and i was able to catch up with them in oakland.

      while certainly toronto is very different from detroit, and the way that race plays out is very different. but conversing with canadians of color, they still seemed troubled by the lack of leadership by people of color, and the perception that the “real canadian” is white – that no matter how long a person of color has been in the country, they are still not a “real canadian” – certainly this seems true in the states as well.

      i’m always troubled by the idea of colorblindness – cause it strikes me as lacking perspective and being unable to have a critical analysis. if you are colorblind you are not able to perceive deference in treatment, you don’t for instance even notice that some people seem unable to achieve roles in society based on skin color or national origin. studies have shown that people raise to be color blind are actually less able to perceive unfair treatment and have empathy for others.

      do we really want to have a colorblind society? i’m always troubled by statements that we are all equal, and that we should all be treated equally. we are not equal, we are different, we all have different skills and gifts, and lack certain things. we don’t all need the same treatment – we need the treatment that allows us to thrive and be the most valuable human we can be. i would prefer that we create a society in which we perceive and are aware of people for difference – but they still treated as valuable and as great a gift as anyone else.

      in talking with canadians of color, it is the defensiveness of folks to talk about race that doesn’t allow societies to move forward – that instead of truly addressing race we move to a “post racial society” in which race doesn’t matter – maybe race doesn’t matter to white folks – but it certainly does to people of color.

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