Title my garden, my city: using urban agriculture to enhance social and economic inclusion amongst youth and families.
Smith, Jenna (2018). 'Title My Garden, My City: using urban agriculture to enhance social and economic inclusion amongst youth and families.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.
The district of Peter-McGill is one of the most densely populated areas in Canada with 4775 people per square kilometre. (Source: Mise en valeur du territoire et du patrimoine Montréal, Profil sociodémographique Ville-Marie, 2009). The Plan Particulier d’Urbanisme des Grands Jardins 2011 confirms, “the presence of heat islands” in the heart of the Peter-McGill District and “the lack of green spaces accessible to the population”. (PPU, section 3.2.3)
As well, the final report of a Study on the needs in the district (Arrondissement Ville Marie 2014) confirms the problem of isolation and the need to create links among its residents, accentuated by the lack of outside areas to gather. (p.1) Therefore, youth and families in the neighbourhood need better and more access to public spaces and to activities where they can gather as a community. At the same time, the Planification communautaire jeunesse du centre-ville ouest de Montréal (p.17) recognizes the need for services in pre-employment for youth in our neighbourhood who are in situations of extreme vulnerability.
The problem statement is that families and youth in Peter-McGill lack access to safe communal spaces that will allow them to grow their sense of ownership, safety and autonomy within their communities and neighbourhood.
To respond to the context described above, Innovation Youth has adopted the following approach: Increasing youth capabilities through urban agriculture. Our objectives are to offer youth opportunities of community engagement and summer employment while empowering them to develop green, sustainable spaces in the neighbourhood of Peter-McGill.
Concretely, we created the “My Garden, My City” project, now in its fourth year. The project unfolds in two ways: first, we offer unemployed or vulnerable youth summer jobs in which they become urban agriculture interns. Second, we develop plots of land belonging to institutions or landowners that have been neglected or abandoned and turn them into gardens that are both recreational and pedagogical, yielding enough harvest to provide community kitchens and local families with fresh produce throughout the gardening months.
Learnings and observations:
Since 2014, here are the accomplishments of the project, My Garden, My City:
- Innovation Youth created 4601 square feet of permanent gardens in different locations around the district, by reclaiming private spaces made available by private landowners, churches and universities.
- More than 50 young people have served as interns. The majority of them are able to find part-time employment or summer jobs following their experience with Innovation Youth.
- 30 % of the interns live with learning difficulties. This project allows them to acquire new skills that helps them build a future in school and in the workplace.
- · The plots of land that are developed into gardens are prone to a decrease in vandalism, crime and litter, and an increase in foot traffic, social interactions and recreational use.
During the internships, youth have demonstrated the following:
- Increased circulation in their neighbourhood, walking to different areas that they would not normally access.
- Increased autonomy through gains made by team-work, community engagement and work training.
- Increased knowledge in issues of urban life, gardening and civic engagement.
- Increased positive interactions between different groups in the neighbourhood: practionners, landowners, youth, families and homeless peoples.