Growing a robust relationship with Toronto gardeners

July 23, 2020

Bishop Allotment Garden in Toronto
Toronto's Bishop Allotment Gardens, on the Line 9 pipeline right-of-way, where Enbridge worked with plot owners to schedule a 2019 maintenance dig around the growing season and crops with unique growing cycles.

The gardeners of the Bishop Allotment Gardens, located in a well-travelled area of northern Toronto, probably hadn’t given much thought to the 30-inch Line 9 petroleum pipeline flowing beneath their well-tended and nurtured garden plots.

At least not until it was discovered that several plots would need to be overturned as part of a preventative maintenance dig during the summer of 2019.

Allotment gardens are a common sight in Toronto, often located in utility corridors and providing a small patch of earth on which green-thumbed residents, who might live in a nearby condo or apartment, can grow their own food or flowers.

The gardens are a hive of activity during the growing season and offer refuge to those who don’t have access to land in Canada’s biggest city. So, when it was discovered Enbridge had to disrupt up to 30 plots in this city-managed allotment garden, the community was rightfully concerned—but that didn’t last long. The Bishop Allotment Garden maintenance dig became a showpiece for the values upheld by Enbridge and its employees.

The city and gardeners immediately pointed out the importance of the gardens to their personal, social, and cultural well-being. Not only would a dig during the growing season prevent several gardeners from working the land and accessing healthy food for the year, but one crop in particular—garlic—had cultural significance and a unique growing cycle that needed to be respected. Several plots had been growing garlic for years, and a disruption to the plots at the wrong time of year would spell the end of this valued crop for impacted gardeners.

Enbridge listened to these concerns and took steps to reduce the impact. The company determined that the dig could be delayed until just after the 2019 growing season, and refined its plan so that far fewer plots would be affected, reducing the number down to about 15.

The company also hosted an information session under tents on site at Bishop Allotment Gardens, with project director Jason Neufeld walking the gardens with plotholders and describing exactly what the maintenance dig would entail.

Enbridge agreed to accommodate very specific requests as best we could. An Enbridge Gas Inc. employee who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese was on site as an interpreter for some of the gardeners, and Enbridge agreed to provide a pallet of organic matter to affected plotholders, while also providing new fencing and gates to those impacted by the work.

The growing season started late in 2020, due to unseasonably cool weather and COVID-related concerns around the opening of city-managed facilities. Enbridge crews quickly mobilized to complete restoration work that could not be completed in 2019 in time for this year’s opening.

And as plants began to grow on these small islands of wellness in northern Toronto, Enbridge continued to nurture respect with the City of Toronto and Line 9 community gardeners.