City Councillor Adam Giambrone pulled the plug on a FoodShare community garden at Erwin Krickhahn Park last week. You'd think the neighbourhood would be fuming at the removal of a program that could have offered locals in the hard-hit area space to grow their own food.
But it was residents, or some of them, who fought it the same foes of Giambrone who fought traffic calming measures, bike lanes and tree planting along Lansdowne.
"Most of the individuals are the same," explains Giambrone when asked who's behind this latest reversal in his neighbourhood revitalization efforts.
John Fava was one of those leading the charge against Giambrone and FoodShare's garden on Rankin northwest of Bloor and Lansdowne. He says his community wasn't consulted before FoodShare "slopped" a pile of dirt in his 'hood.
"It was a little devious," says Fava, who adds that he never received information about the project and was only alerted when his son noticed soil and spray-painted markings in the park.
Besides the problem of process, Fava claims the garden was "very ugly" and "looked like a cattle pen." He also relays homeowners' concerns that the garden "would affect their property values."
Fava claims that Giambrone's garden plot has further lowered opinion of him in a neighbourhood he claims feels ignored in favour of "WASPs" and the "bio-toilet" crowd.
"People felt they weren't respected," he says.
The Ward 18 councillor stresses that public meetings did take place. He remembers the arguing and yelling, and tells me that "there are people who are opposed to projects even when there is consultation."
FoodShare, caught off-guard by the hostility, also says there were meetings. However, it says is has no interest in opposing the will of a community.
"We don't generally go into an area with the intention of leading the process. We like to support community groups that already have energy and enthusiasm," explains Ravenna Barker, FoodShare's urban agriculture facilitator.
Barker admits to some unfortunately timed miscues.
"The garden was initially dug twice as large as was intended after rain washed away the markings," says Barker. Then, when FoodShare wanted to address community concerns, premature construction of a fence "eroded any trust there may have been."
The controversy escalated into nasty arguments when Fava set up white boards at the garden and encouraged local kids to "express themselves."
He maintains the kids "knew what went down" and no one coerced children into writing "Gardens are for loser's [sic] so be cool!" or "I hate veggies! Yuck."
If anything, says Barker, "The "I hate veggies!' sign signals the need for a garden in the area. We want kids to learn about the beauty and wonder of where food comes from especially veggies."
While kids speaking at one meeting restated their supposed distaste for veggies, FoodShare executive director Debbie Field felt hopeful when they eventually gravitated to the free carrot sticks offered as snacks at the gathering.