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University of Toronto Anthropology Greenhouse
University of Toronto Anthropology Greenhouse
Last updated:
19 Russell Street, Toronto , ON, CA
Climate zone:
Cold Temperate

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University of Toronto Anthropology Greenhouse

Project Type

Urban, Community, School Projects, Educational

Project Summary

The Anthropology Greenhouse is used to grow food on a small scale year round. It's used for educational purposes by Dig In! Campus Agriculture at the University of Toronto, and for research projects under the supervision of Dr. Brad Bass.

Project Description

When I started my job as the Chair's Assistant in Anthropology in 2008, I was given the tour and was excited to learn about the existence of a greenhouse off the staff lounge on the second floor. Unfortunately, it was in a state of disrepair and was not safe to be used. For two years, I hasselled my manager about when the department would make the necessary repairs so I could grow food. We were undergoing budget cuts and there was no money.

In the summer of 2010 I started to volunteer with a student group on campus, Dig In! Campus Agriculture). I asked if they could use their funding to repair the greenhouse. While interested, University policy prohibits student groups from using their funds for capital projects. But they very much wanted use of the space to give their seedlings a head start in the Spring. So they reached out to their networks, and eventually we were put in touch with Dr. Brad Bass, an Adjunct Professor at the School of Environment. Brad needed greenhouse space for his research, and had grant money for the repairs. In exchange, he would be given use of half the greenhouse. Anthropology staff, students and Dig In! would maintain use of the other half for educational workshops and growing food.

After navigating a significant amount of University red tape and bureaucracy, repairs finally began on March 2, 2011. Plexi-glass panels were installed in front of the cracked glass panes (we couldn't afford to replace the glass, so this was our cheap fix), lights and electrical units were installed and made safe, new caulking was applied and a water source installed. The Department's support was instrumental in getting this project off the ground, as in the end my manager agreed to pay the top-up necessary for all the essential repairs required to deem the greenhouse safe to use. 

I have been enjoying the greenhouse ever since! In late 2015, the department replaced the plexi-glass with proper glass panes. The greenhouse is unheated, which can make controlled experiments tricky but Brad's students conducted successful biochar trials in 2014 (for which the students won a science fair award.) In April 2017, the University of Toronto Sustainability Office paid for further upgrades to install insulated wall panels. Dig In! has held workshops on soil blocking and worm composting. I have copious amounts of red wriggler worms to share with anyone interested.



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