“My dad had a farm,” explains James, a client in the Law and Mental Health program at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). James has been involved with FoodShare’s Sunshine Garden program at CAMH since the winter of 2011 when he started planting seedlings in the CAMH greenhouse. Asked what he appreciated most about the gardening program, James says, “You get to see that putting in effort pays off. You get to see something grow from seed to completion.”
Over the last 10 years, the Sunshine Garden program has encouraged clients with an interest in gardening to participate in planning, planting, watering and weeding the green space between Units 1 and 3 at the CAMH Queen Street West location. A partnership between CAMH and FoodShare, the program uses horticulture as a way to provide clients with transferable skills, like teamwork and entrepreneurship. Many of the participants say that it also helps to build self-confidence and restores a sense of hope and purpose to their day–to-day lives.
During the summer months, the group also hosts an organic market that features everything from fresh vegetables and flowers to hand-made green tomato chutney. Liz Kirk, from Food Share Toronto, manages the garden and the seasonal market, “The clients are proud to make a contribution to local food security and community food culture in Toronto’s west end,” she says.
Liz became involved with the Sunshine Garden four years ago through a placement in the greenhouse while she was studying horticultural therapy. Liz has expanded the program to include cooking classes at FoodShare’s kitchen where clients learn how to preserve the harvest, as well as day trips to places like Richters Herbs and the Royal Botanical Gardens. She is very proud to see the great strides many CAMH clients make while working in the garden.
“The wonderful thing about this program is that clients nurture the garden, and in return, the garden nurtures them,” says Liz.
Toshio started working in the CAMH garden last summer after meeting Liz through the Archway Outpatient Clinic. “I remember seeing the garden from my window when I was staying at CAMH,” says Toshio, “It was a hopeful sight.” Toshio has recently applied for a certificate in Landscape Design at Ryerson University. Working with Liz in the Sunshine Garden helped him learn all the steps and stages of growth and encouraged him to pursue his interest further.
“When you find a garden like this,” says Toshio, “Your space opens up. You can hear the city in the background, but you can feel comfortable, tranquil.”