Shelldale Farm Park: Partnerships for a Better Food System!

Shelldale Farm Park is an urban oasis. Located in the heart of the Onward Willow neighbourhood the food-focused project continues to grow healthy food and a stronger community through learning and action. The neighborhood is incredibly diverse and has a high population of single-parent and low-income families. Located at the Shelldale Centre (20 Shelldale Crescent) SFP is part of a community-driven hub for social change. SFP actively contributes to the SDGs 9 of 17 SDGs:

A Community Garden is Born!

The vision of Shelldale Farm Park was created with a whole community approach. Project partners and residents of the Onward Willow community all came together to brainstorm what would deeply transform the urban agriculture scene in their community. Cultivating these partnerships on an ongoing basis has been critical to the success of the project

Visioning sessions were held and an exciting plan emerged for Shelldale Farm Park which would include an outdoor community garden with accessible raised beds, a four-season commercial greenhouse, a community kitchen, a year-round hydroponic growing container, a composting area, nature therapy gardens, an outdoor pavilion, walking trails, a naturalized playground, shade sails, a rainwater harvesting demonstration garden, pollinator gardens, a seed-sharing station, picnic tables, and a weekly food market directly serving the Onward Willow community.

Omelnisaa Giddam, the Shelldale Farm Park Coordinator, tending to some cucumbers.

Taking leadership of the vision was Omelinissa Giddam, the Shelldale Farm Park Coordinator. Omelnissa has a depth of experience, with a Masters in Agriculture and Extension, and has 19 years of experience working with the United Nations in agriculture, capacity-building, community development, rural advisory, emergency programming, and volunteering with the International and Canadian Red Cross. 

The project broke ground in 2021 and, with help from volunteers, 45 raised garden beds were built with 12 of them being accessible for folks with mobility challenges. Everdale donated seeds, and the community garden was soon buzzing with activity. SFP was also awarded the Transformative Urban Agriculture Award, worth $70,000 from the Guelph-Wellington Urban Agriculture Challenge. This critical funding helped complete several infrastructure projects, including a compost area, and supported education and knowledge-sharing activities.

The compost bin at Shelldale Farm Park.

Building a Diverse and Inclusive Community Space

At Shelldale Farm Park, everyone is welcome. Gardeners speak more than 10 different languages including Nepali, Urdu, Tigrinya, Swahili, Arabic, and Chinese dialects, amongst others. The garden directly supports 31 families and over 120 individuals while also providing a vibrant space where people can experience nature and community. 

Coming to the community garden is also not only about planting and harvesting it is about connecting with neighbours and friends and to the soil. Having a place to cultivate food, particularly foods with cultural significance, is extremely important, because many of the community gardeners grew up on farms in their home countries and having a space to cultivate the soil offers a valuable and grounding experience.

SFP not only provides a place for community members to come together, but a place where leadership skills are cultivated and capacity is built. These opportunities are incredibly important because they support the development of community leaders and help to build skills and experience for employment. The more the community engages with the garden, the more ownership they feel over the project which contributes directly to long-term sustainability.

In 2023, Shelldale Fram Park wrapped up their third growing season. Partners, funders and the community continue to work together to achieve the BIG vision. Through work with SDG Cities, SFP has developed an impact model that describes the change they are working to make and connects to the SDGs. This impact model shows how a community garden can have social, economic and environmental impacts and will help SFP more accurately measure their progress towards their ultimate goal:to create a robust food landscape that supports health and wellbeing for all community members.

This impact story was adapted from a piece originally published by 10C and Our Food Future as a part of the 2021 Guelph-Wellington Urban Agriculture Challenge.