Student initiative strives to match gardeners with gardens

It was while playing with his kids at a local park one day last summer that York student Danny McMullen first noticed there were a lot of overgrown backyard gardens going to waste. He immediately saw it as a missed opportunity for those without space who wished to garden. The idea, however, wouldn’t be developed until months later.

As McMullen thought about what to do for his final project for his ENVS 1200 Taking Action: Engaging People and the Environment course with environmental studies Professor Anders Sandberg, he heard about Landshare. It’s a movement in the United Kingdom that gives people with garden space to offer and those wanting space to garden an opportunity to match up.

 From left, Danny McMullen, Nick Williams, Xiang He and Nicky Dao. Photo by the fifth member, Henry Ho.Right: From left, Danny McMullen, Nick Williams, Xiang He and Nicky Dao. Photo by the fifth member, Henry Ho.

“As soon as I heard of that I thought that’s brilliant,” says McMullen. “There are so many people who potentially might want to garden but can’t because they live in condos or small apartments.”

So he brought the concept to his course and four of his classmates jumped at the idea. Together they have developed and launched Garden Hunters GTA. Anyone looking for gardening space and anyone with gardening space to share can sign up.

It’s all part of a really new concept – that of collaborative consumption – like Zipcar and bicycle lending and now matching gardeners to gardens, he says. The non-profit initiative was started in February by McMullen, Nicky Dao, Xiang He, Henry Ho and Nick Williams, but now that the weather is getting warmer, the five students expect the desire to get out there and garden will also be heating up.

McMullen has made the first match with a homeowner and is looking forward to growing lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, spinach, beans and perhaps some broccoli and cauliflower. Living in a townhouse, he had a small garden last year and “it was really great to be able to go out and pick my own veggies” that “tasted amazing,” but now he is “excited to do that on a larger scale”.

The students started a Toonti website and a Facebook page to try and generate interest in time for the upcoming growing season. Landshare has some 50,000 members, so McMullen knows their Garden Hunters GTA has potential. “We are trying to make a small contribution to helping people grow and consume healthy food,” says McMullen. And it’s an idea where everyone wins. The gardener gets to garden and reap the spoils, but then about one third is shared with the garden owner. Everyone, says McMullen, is happy.

“We connect people who wouldn’t otherwise be connected,” he says. It’s a bit of a twist on the community garden idea.

For more information, visit the Garden Hunters GTA website or the group’s Facebook page.