Sharing backyards program pairs gardeners with land

Susan Poizner never used to call herself a gardener and never gardened in her life until a few years ago. Today she gardens for a living.

As founder of the Sharing Backyards program, she pairs gardeners with non-gardeners who have extra backyard space.

When Poizner started the program in late summer 2009, she was already a part of Growing for Green, a similar project.

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Poizner was inspired by one of the members living in an apartment.  This member was a part of a shared vegetable garden. Poizner came up with Sharing Backyards to get more people to connect in this way.

Poizner herself was never into gardening until she met her partner.  At first it was a hobby, until she decided to turn it into her career. She hopes with this program others might have a similar experience to her own.

She says, although the program is simple, the outcome could be different for everyone who takes part.

“People who are sharing today may never want to have anything to do with the gardening, they may be happy just to share the produce,” Poizner said. “But in a couple years they may find themselves wanting to help others learn, or become more active. It’s just such an exciting thing to do.”

Potential participants can sign up on the Sharing Backyards website, as either gardeners with no space or as residence with space but little to no knowledge of gardening.

“I think it’s successful because on so many levels it’s practical,” Poizner said. “There are a lot of people who have great gardening experience that don’t have gardens, so it’s a great outlet for them.”

Scarborough resident Jassy Jagpal is one of the many people who signed up on the website. She has a large, mostly unused garden plot in her backyard, because of back problems.

“I can’t garden myself.  I’d like somebody to make use of [my garden] if they can,” said Jagpal, who lives near the Toronto Zoo. “They can grow vegetables, fruit, or whatever they feel like doing.”

Anne Lokstein, another Scarborough resident, has a similar issue to Jagpal’s. She has space for a garden, but says she’s unable to use it because she’s a senior.

Both women hope that as summer gets closer, they can be matched up with a gardener.

Along with the practical goal of helping more people to garden, Poizner said the program is successful because it’s a way of community building.

“It’s a way to get to know your neighbours,” Poizner said. “For me there’s nothing more fun than walking down the road and knowing the people who live in the different houses, and being able to drop in for a cup of tea. It’s so fun to watch a garden grow and to participate together.”