Community Garden ‘Come Grow and Play’ program named finalist in competition


Islanders requested to take part in online vote

GORDON ISLAND – The Come Grow and Play program that the Western Manitoulin Community Garden (WMCG) hopes to develop has been selected as one of the David Suzuki Foundation 2021 Future Group prize finalists, in the youth category, and needs public support in the form of voting to help make it one of the projects selected.

“If we win and get funding, we would develop the (Come Grow and Play) program and develop a play area at our garden,” stated Linda Willson, of WMCG. She explained, “we had applied for the Davide Suzuki Foundation prize in Ontario, an open nomination application, and we were one of the last 21 finalists named in the youth category. Then, a week later, I found out we were in contention with four other (provincial) programs selected as finalists. I think we have a pretty good shot.”

“We are asking for everyone in the area and beyond to go online and vote in favour of the Come Grow and Play program, from June 1-15,” said Ms. Willson. 

On May 21, the David Suzuki Foundation announced the 15 finalists for the first-ever Future Ground Prize in Ontario, presented by Desjardins and supported by Nature’s Way. Of 135 submissions, the finalists represent some of the most effective and inspiring projects in Ontario working to build a green and just future.

“From climate activism and plastic waste cleanup projects to planting pollinator pathways and supporting Indigenous farming, the quality and quantity of Ontario initiatives making positive environmental and social impacts in their communities from the ground up overwhelmed us,” David Suzuki Foundation associate director of engagement and mobilization Megan Hooft said.

“In many ways, the true spirt of environmental activism is best demonstrated at the grassroots level,” said Geoff Willis, vice-president of marketing for Nature’s Way. “It’s so inspiring to see the activities this community-driven program will support. Little things add up to big impacts.” 

The Future Ground Prize winners will be announced at a virtual event on June 16 when they will also present their projects to David Suzuki and receive their prize from Desjardins.

“Our desire to contribute to improving the economic and social well-being of people and communities is reflected in our commitments and our contribution to the development of a sustainable and responsible economy. We’re proud to highlight and celebrate those who are taking concrete action for our transition efforts through the inaugural Future Ground Prize in Ontario,” said Pauline D’Amboise, vice-president, governance, sustainable development, and secretary general of Desjardins Group, when the Future Ground Prize launched.

There are a total of 15 finalists, including five youth finalists. The Come Grow and Play program is among the five finalists in the youth category along with TreesCO2: 1000 Trees 4 Every Youth (Toronto), Tree Planting with The Outland Youth Employment Program (Thunder Bay), Movers and Shakers Program (Guelph) and Outdoor Learning Project (Waterloo).

Ms. Willson said if funding is provided through the program for the Come Grow and Play program it would be developed by Sarah Earley and Dariya Quenneville of WMCG. The project description reads: “Kids from our local elementary school and daycare come to the garden to plant food for their school and daycare snack program. The children can also play in the all-natural playground area. With 14 raised beds and 20 individual garden plots we have provided local communities with about five bushels of food weekly through the growing season for families experiencing food insecurity.”

“With this program we would basically establish a play area, be able to hold workshops and hope to attract young farmers to the garden,” said Ms. Willson.
“Part of the competition is in the form of a jury panel, and projects get judges on providing different tasks,” said Ms. Willson, who noted that voting for projects online begins June 1, and on June 16 a grand gala will be held virtually at this time all finalists get to meet David Suzuki online and the winners in their categories are announced. Cash prizes of between $2,500-5,000 will be announced.  

“The community garden program is in its fifth season this year and is getting better and better every year,” said Ms. Willson. 

To vote for the Come Grow and Play program, you can go online to and click on ‘youth finalists.’