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Explore Oshawa's Bee-Friendly Community

As we all feel the heat or take refuge from the pressures of rain, there is an obvious change in our weather patterns. Those changes to our natural environments, no doubt, have an impact on our food systems.

In 2019, Toronto named the “metallic green sweat bee — Agapostemon virescens is the species name —” the city’s Official Bee. It is known that the female bees of these species build communal nests underground, which is perhaps emblematic of how people in growing cities feel: the need to find and create community away from the busy centers, instead gathering similarly to underground root systems or stylish bees building communes. Remember that Statistics Canada reported that “the Oshawa area is the fastest growing area of Canada” and that the Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area, which includes Whitby and Clarington, experienced 2.1 percent population growth in 2019-2020, compared to the national average of 1.1 percent. We have all seen the effects of this rapid expansion on our day-to-day lives, such as housing squeezes and effects on employment, but the reach of this growth also includes what is happening to our critters and pollinators. According to the National Post, “Right now, eight wild bee species are listed under Canada’s species risk registry.”

I bet you #hadnoidea that there were five pollinator gardens right here in Oshawa.

What is Oshawa doing to help, and can Oshawa do more? Bee City Canada boasts that Oshawa is the 22nd Canadian Bee City and 17 th in Ontario. They continue, “Located on the eastern edge of the Golden Horseshoe in Southern Ontario, the City of Oshawa has joined the growing list of municipalities committing to taking actions to help pollinators! The City maintains several formal pollinator and community gardens. It has also amended its boulevard by-law to encourage planting for pollinators and is working to reduce mowing and increase naturalization in parks and areas adjacent to water.” Check out Bee City Canada’s website to learn more about what cities, businesses, and regular folk like you and me can do to support, protect, and nurture the bees that rely on us for health and safety and that we rely on for food and growth.

Currently, “Oshawa is home to five pollinator gardens on City-owned land,” including at City Hall. The City continues by explaining that Pollinator Garden and Meadow, located at the Legends Centre (1661 Harmony Road North), was developed “With assistance from CN EcoConnexions - From the Ground Up program, in partnership with Tree Canada and Communities in Bloom” and “was planted by community volunteers.” Visit the Oshawa Express for the full story.

The list of gardens to see in Oshawa continues with the Rossland Road Butterfly Garden. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the community feel of this particular garden. The Delpark Homes Centre also houses a pollinator garden. Visiting these gardens is important because so much of these spaces feed off the love given to them by locals, volunteers, children, and those of us who are invested in as green a future as possible. There is a push from many municipalities across Ontario to help preserve life and secure the longevity of the pollinator species that do so much for humanity. Let’s do what we can to see bees, butterflies, and all the critters that make our ecosystems function to get off the endangered species list and instead into gardens that feed and sustain them.

All of this talk about pollinators brings me to highlight that there are some local businesses that understand the importance of buying, selling, and using local ingredients, as well as using a farm-to-fork model.

First, to get your Ontario honey (and bee products), look toward ‘Kiss My Bees, Honey,’ which has been serving the Durham community for years. This wealth of information also describes steps we can take year-round to preserve our local bee populations.

Be sure to visit local artist markets to find the product offerings of the Oshawa-based company Aromath Apiaries (505 Harwood Drive, Oshawa), and consider placing your orders via social media.

Next, it is important to highlight The Portobello Road, a plant-based business that offers fine dining, four or six-course menu tasting events, and participates in farmers' markets. The pasta and pizza are delicious and employ a sustainable food system model using local ingredients. Located at 21 Bond Street East, I highly recommend supporting this business by dining in, ordering some of their prepared meals, or attending some of their events.

City of Greens is another operation doing its part to support the people and biodiversity of the Durham Region. Order your fresh produce (including meats) by perusing their website or visiting them at Oshawa’s All or Nothing Brewery “Food City Farmers Markets” on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (only until October).

Next is Mathilda’s, located at 29 Simcoe Street South, Oshawa. Truly delicious food, vegan and culturally diverse. This food is filling and offers nourishment that supports the local population and the local economy.

Luckily, Mathilda’s is located minutes away from The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, which is launching its new backyard, featuring some very cool programming and a focus on inclusivity.

Food justice is not just about having access to food and food systems that are nourishing to humans. Food justice also amplifies the need to support our wildlife and ecosystems that are impacted by very rapid growth (city expansion, population increases, etc.). Supporting these local businesses that have their eye on sustainable farming, making delicious foods, showing that food systems are culturally diverse, delicious and nutritious, and building a community to make Oshawa the best hub for bees to seek refuge possible is a goal in which we can all partake.

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