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Dig In With Regenesis – We’ve Merged!

May 3, 2018

digin_merge (dragged)

Toronto, ON: Dig In! UofT Campus Agriculture encourages the growth and development of urban agriculture projects on campus and seeks to educate students on growing food. They believe that gardening is a great way to build community, and they have recently merged with an organization that has similar values – Regenesis.

Regenesis is a Canadian community environmental organization, with chapters on various universities in Ontario. They believe in empowering students as initiators of change in addressing today’s social and environmental concerns, through advocacy and service in local chapters. Their Regenesis UofT chapter runs programming around sustainable food and waste diversion, and they will be opening a Youth Food Centre in the upcoming school year.

Regenesis UofT has adopted Dig In as an initiative and aims to help expand the work that is being done across the gardens at UTSU, Sid Smith, and the Anthropology Garden & Greenhouse operated by Samantha Lucchetta and Kristy Bard. Jessica Viau, Co-President of Regenesis UofT, says “Regenesis is a grassroots platform for student-driven environmental projects. We are excited to have Dig In join our growing family.”

Both groups aim to work together to secure better funding for their gardens. They plan on utilizing the new Youth Food Centre as the perfect space to host workshops and teach-ins. In addition, they hope to integrate their gardening projects into the academic curriculum of the New College Food Equity program.

Up and coming gardens are on the horizon for Dig In, such as re-installing a semi-hydroponic herb garden on the Faculty Club roof. They also have plans to collaborate with New College to garden a small walled courtyard off the Human Biology department, as well as establishing a garden at Wilson Hall.

But to do this, they need more people getting their hands dirty! Volunteers are at the core of what both Regenesis and Dig In do. “The more student volunteers we have, the more capacity we’ll have to grow.” Says Bard, “We envision a campus where food grows organically in every garden, and are tended and harvested by students and staff, with the food served in campus cafeterias and restaurants.” Dig In hosts growing sessions every Monday and Wednesday. Get involved here:








Dig In! Celebrates ECOFEST with seed planting

March 18, 2018
Mar.12.18 soil block workshop

Lots of busy bees planting seeds in the Anthropology Greenhouse. Photo by Sam Lucchetta.

Spring is just around the corner, which means Dig In! has already kicked off this year’s growing season with a Seed Planting Workshop generously sponsored by UTERN (University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network) in the Anthropology Greenhouse on March 12th. Scheduled to coincide with this year’s ECOFEST, participants got their hands dirty with an introduction to soil blocking, which is a more eco-friendly way to start seedlings that reduces shock to fragile root systems during transplanting. Dig In! volunteers had the opportunity to plant some of this year’s crops that benefit from early seed-starting, such as an array of peppers, kale, basil, parsley, rhubarb, onions, leeks, and lettuce.  Some of the kale has already sprouted less than a week later!

Soil block, rhubarb

Planting rhubarb seeds in soil blocks. Photo by Sam Lucchetta.

As April rolls in, we look forward to the first signs of spring as more seeds begin to sprout. We’re planning a second seed planting workshop on Wednesday, April 11, when we’ll plant more fast growing crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash.

We’re in the process of scheduling our regular work days, to commence in mid April. One of our first work day tasks will be distributing compost to our gardens, and direct seeding crops that fare best when they are direct sown, such as carrots, beans, peas and radishes. More information will go out on our email list, so be sure to join our listserv here.

Interested in doing your own soil blocking, or learning more? You can find a photo of the soil block recipe we use, as well as links to other online resources, at a previous blog post here.

ECOFEST 2018 continues until March 23, 2018. Check out what other great events are happening at

seeds, Mar. 12, 2018 workshop

Choosing what seeds to plant next. Photo by Sam Lucchetta.

Infectious Viral Fun!

February 6, 2018

Lana Tran twitter postOn January 24, we had 30 participants come out for our Permaculture 101 and Garden Planning Workshop at OISE. Ivan Chan from Eden in Season kicked things off with a one-hour lesson on some of the core principles of permaculture, such as integration, diversity and resilience. Before planning a garden, it’s important to first start with observation of the site you wish to transform, and then design based on your observations in order to achieve your garden planning goals. Taking into consideration the various characteristics of the site is key. What can be changed, and what must we figure out how to incorporate into our design? Soil for example can be improved over time through the addition of organic matter like compost, whereas the topography, surrounding buildings, and climate are not easily modified – particularly by students whose gardening is subject to the approval of the University administration. We can only use land that University Grounds (Facilities and Services) permits us to use, frequently in collaboration with other relevant departments. For our context, we must learn to work with the university bureaucracy if we want to garden on university property.

Once you’ve observed a site and come up with a design, you need to consider the resources that will need to go into making the garden a reality, such as seeds, compost, water, sun, and labour. Over the years, we’ve found that our best gardens are those located near already existing sprinkler systems, thereby limiting the labour required for manual irrigation.

Ivan also had us thinking about the shapes we find occurring in nature, such as spirals, snowflakes, or the way branches and roots grow. In nature, we rarely encounter straight gridlines or triangles. Instead, there are more complicated, interconnected patterns and undulations. Finally, Ivan encouraged us to introduce another core principle to our gardening ethic: stimulating infectious viral fun! Labour is one of the most important resources we rely upon to start and maintain any garden, so making the work fun and rewarding is key to ensuring volunteers continue to stay involved.

Charles, Jan. 24 workshop

Charles presenting his group’s ideas for the Anthropology Greenhouse

After our introduction to permaculture, we broke into four groups to brainstorm ideas for our different projects this season: the UTSU Gardens, the Sid Smith Plot, the Anthropology Garden and Greenhouse, and the hope of establishing a spiral herb mound at Hart House post ramp construction (the ramp will be built on top of our previous garden in front of the building.) Each group was provided with some background for their relevant site to inform their plans, and after 20 minutes they presented their ideas to the larger group.

Some of the ideas involved the importance of rotating crops to ensure soil health, and the need to avoid soil compaction. Others came up with ways to integrate vertical systems to make better use of the limited space, or how to tap into various funding sources to buy any required materials. It was wonderful to sense the excitement in the air at all the possibilities of what we could achieve through working together collaboratively. It was also great to meet so many people with different backgrounds and skill sets, eager to share their knowledge.

A special thank you to Ivan Chan for facilitating this workshop for us, and to UTSU for contributing an honorarium. Thanks as well to all of those who came out and contributed to such a successful planning exercise!

Kristy Bard
Coordinator, Dig In! Campus Agriculture

Permaculture 101 with Ivan Chan & 2018 Garden Planning Workshop

January 7, 2018

Dig In! Campus Agriculture Presents

PERMACULTURE 101 with Ivan Chan, followed by a 2018 Garden Planning Workshop

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2018, 3:00-5:00PM, OISE ROOM 2205

Toronto native Ivan Chan received his Permaculture Design Certificate in 2011, and has since established Eden in Season in Meaford, where he designs edible gardens, supplies and harvests from a diversity of perennial crops. At this workshop, Ivan will present how permaculture ideas can be applied to urban gardens, and then we’ll break out into discussion groups to brainstorm and plan out Dig In!’s 2018 growing season.  View a summary of our campus agriculture projects here

Please RSVP at

Click here to view the pdf event poster. Jan. 24 Permaculture 101 poster

Salad Fest Hosted by Dig In! and UC Lit Sustainability Commission

December 10, 2017

Salad Fest, photo by Samantha Lucchetta

The sky is grey, the trees are bare, and the city is very, very cold. Winter is here. Although harvest time is now behind us, the last of the campus’s veggies were able to make a colourful, final appearance at Salad Fest on November 29th.

Salad Fest was a collaboration between Dig In! and the University College Literary & Athletic Society’s Sustainability Commission. The University College Commuter Student Centre was the cozy venue for the event, from noon until two. A small crowd of students had trickled in just in time for lunch to take a small break during this stressful time of year. The menu consisted of salad made of various herbs and leafy greens from the Anthropology Greenhouse and the Huron Sussex Community Garden, such as kale, collards, sorrel, chives, spinach, and arugula. Garlic and onions were sourced from Dig In! Coordinator Kristy Bard’s Pomona Farm, and some pickled radishes grown near Meaford at Eden in Season was an excellent addition. We also had various dried and fresh herbs on hand, such as mint, lemon balm, golden rod, yarrow, lilac, catnip, pennyroyal tea and stinging nettle for concocting medicinal teas.

To kick off the event, cutlery courtesy of the Sustainability Office were given out as prizes for correctly answering agriculture-related trivia questions. The reusable cutlery consisted of a set of chopsticks, a fork, and a spoon conveniently packaged in a small carrying case. After the trivia session, Salad Fest participants tucked into platefuls of salad with their new, reusable utensils.

As people ate their salad and sipped their tea, the kitchen area of the Commuter Student Centre buzzed with conversation. Overheard were discussions on campus spaces available for gardening, how to get university students and staff more involved in sustainability initiatives, and a permaculture workshop Dig In! is planning for scheduled for early 2018.

Although this is a listless time of year, Dig In! will continue to host activities and prep for planting season. As an increasing number of people at U of T become interested in urban agriculture and sustainability, we look forward to an exciting growing season this coming spring and summer!

~Sam Lucchetta, Dig In! volunteer

Join us November 29 for Salad Fest!

November 19, 2017

Salad Fest

In collaboration with the UC Lit Sustainability Commission, Dig In! will be co-hosting this event featuring campus grown veggies and herbs from the Anthropology Greenhouse. Come have a wholesome and healthy salad to cleanse your exam blues and late night junk food irks! We will also have fresh and dried herbs available for tea.

Join us in conversation about vegetarianism, sustainable local food, and agricultural opportunities (on campus and at home) while enjoying a nice, healthy, and wholesome plate of salad and warm cup of tea. We’ll have some fun trivia questions related to campus agriculture, for which the Sustainability Office will be providing portable (and reusable!) cutlery as prizes. Please RSVP at

Bees are the Best: Dig In! Hosts Pollinator Workshop

October 18, 2017

Don and Nelly Young digging in to some delicious honey at the Sept. 29 Pollinator Workshop. Photo by Jonathan Sabeniano

by Don Young

I didn’t expect surprises but there were many at Dig In!’s Pollinator Workshop on September 29. Gillian Leitch, landscape designer (, beekeeper and a Director with Bee City Canada ( led the workshop, which was co-sponsored by The Sierra Club and U of T Bees. We began after a delicious honey tasting that had all licking their fingers as well as their lips.

First surprise – honeybees are not native to North America! They were brought here by European settlers. Honeybees are great pollinators but are viewed by some as a monoculture that threatens biological diversity. An invasive species, they’ve competed with native bees and other pollinators for food, right from the beginning. Native bees and other pollinating insects are equally important, if not more so, in the essential service of pollinating most of our edible and decorative plants, as well as all fruit-bearing trees. Without pollinators – and bees of all kinds are the best – food production would plummet and, along with it, all animal life, including human.

Gillian has helped to make Toronto the first Bee City in Canada and is involved in the City’s Biodiversity and Pollinator Protection Strategies, which have buy-ins from all City departments. A leader in the City’s Pollinator Working Group, she is helping to map habitat, promote pollinator gardens and pollinator-friendly plants and trees, green roofs with shade and deeper soil, linked green spaces, the conversion of old landfill sites and pollinator-friendly roadsides. (For more information, visit Bee City is signing up businesses and institutions to support these efforts. Gillian would love to help U of T become the first Bee City University in Canada.


Gillian Leitch teaching us about pollinators. Photo by Jonathan Sabeniano

Neonicotinoids and other pesticides threaten to destroy all of this good work. Neonics are 7,000 times more toxic than DDT and have spread throughout our environment, thanks to commercial agriculture, especially corn and soy production. The kernels and seeds are coated with sticky neonics, which are then separated with talcum powder for planting. The toxin gets into the air during seeding. Neonics are in the air we breathe, in the water we drink and in the food we eat. They are deadly to all pollinators and have been linked to various animal and human ailments – research is currently underway linking them to autism.

For gardeners, the workshop offered much advice on what to grow and, again, many surprises. Who knew that heavy mulching was wasteful and bad for pollinators? Most native bees build their nests in holes in the ground. Covering up these holes can leave them homeless or without a place to dig.  At least 10 percent of your garden should remain un-mulched, especially around the edges where bees prefer to nest. Instead of mulch, apply compost around each plant. And ignore the signs telling you to “keep off the grass.” Walk on all the lawns you can. Your footprints create edges where bees can gain access.  As Dig In! volunteers, we should help pollinators to dig in too. In turn, they will help us make a success of campus agriculture.

For further information: