OTF Grant Helps Start Me Up Niagara to Expand Community Garden

Posted Nov 3rd, 2021

ST. CATHARINES, ON- Start Me Up Niagara, SMUN wants to thank the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre for a great growing year, the first of a three-year partnership. With an OTF grant of $449,500 grant, Start Me Up Niagara was able to expand the Green Garden, a social enterprise and community gardening program that provides welcoming, inclusive activities. Start Me Up Niagara worked with participants in the garden on a 2.5-acre farm and in the kitchen to create some fantastic, artisanal food and body care products that are on sale online and have been featured in some great local markets.
“This is the type of grant that has meaningfully expanded on the good work of Start Me Up Niagara to increase the social determinants for health by building up our community to be both more inclusive and greener. Whether it was closing gaps for food scarcity, mental health or social isolation, this project positively brings our community together.” stated Jennie Stevens, MPP for St. Catharines.
Collaborators on the Garden Makers’ social enterprise bring their creativity and entrepreneurship to the garden and kitchen. With ingredients grown and harvested from Start Me Up Niagara’s gardens, participants in the Garden Makers program help craft unique products - like the tasty peach-cayenne hot sauce, made from white-flesh peaches donated by a local farmer. They have contributed to making popular seasonal goods like rhubarb kimchi, pickled garlic scapes, and hot honey. Participants have been able to create uncommon local goods while building food security skills and social connections.
“This partnership has helped to build on Start Me Up Niagara social enterprise objectives and surpass our targets. Despite the challenges presented to us due to the global pandemic, we’ve had an exceptional growing season. We’ve been able to welcome several participants out to the farm over the summer, when loosened restrictions allowed, to plant seeds, weed, and harvest ingredients for our products. We held multiple small kitchen workshops every week over the growing season and well into the fall. Some participants came out to enjoy the beautiful and serene labyrinth garden as a space to mentally decompress and reground. We were even able to host an outdoor drumming workshop with a group of about a dozen participants. In this second year of our community, we hope to build more connections through similar garden workshops and events in the future.” said Laura Dumas, Executive Director of SMUN
Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s support, Start Me Up Niagara was fortunate enough to offer both the garden and kitchen spaces for the SMUN community to learn and grow together during the trying time that has been this pandemic, wherein experiences of separation and isolation have been inevitable. Now more than ever, the organization is grateful for the opportunity to connect and continue growing around the Garden Makers program.
To learn more about Start Me Up Niagara Community Garden, check out their page here: https:// www.startmeupniagara.ca/site/our-community-garden
Start Me Up Niagara offers services and programs to individuals who face significant life challenges, including those experiencing poverty, chronic and intermittent homelessness, unemployment, disabilities, addictions, and mental health issues. Their goal is to provide participants and those in their community with opportunities to stabilize, participate and grow.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. Last year, nearly $112M was invested into 1,384 community projects and partnerships to build healthy and vibrant communities and strengthen the impact of Ontario’s non-profit sector. In 2020/21, OTF supported Ontario’s economic recovery by helping non-profit organizations rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Visit otf.ca to learn more.

Media Contact: If you would like more information about this grant or our Community Garden or our Garden Markers program, please call Charmaine Frado at 905 984-5310 or email cfrado@startmeupniagara.ca

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