FoodShare is founded, by then Toronto Mayor Eggleton, as concern increases over the growth of hunger and the increasing use of food banks in our City. A non-profit organization, FoodShare, advances food security “From Field to Table”, co-ordinating emergency food services, focusing on education and advocacy of healthy eating, and promoting urban agriculture as a vital cornerstone in achieving those goals. See www.foodshare.net.
FoodShare, through its Urban Agriculture program, commits to an experiment in urban beekeeping, with hives to be housed at the rear of their building at 200 Eastern Avenue, literally at the convergence of the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. FoodShare wants to teach Torontonians about apiculture, bees, and their role in pollination, food production and the environment. Thankfully proximity to the Don Valley and Toronto’s waterfront provides lots of forage where bees can (and do) prosper.
Three beehives are established at FoodShare’s location, as a joint project with the AfriCan Foodbasket. FoodShare staff, volunteers and community members receive training in apiculture, in part through the University of Guelph and Dr. Medhat Nasr. Financial support is received from the NGO Heifer International Foundation. Heifer’s philosophy is to “pass on the gift” to other organizations, by providing funds and training to start up small scale, sustainable urban agriculture projects. With that grant the number of hives increases to six, and Heifer is excited to showcase a “big city” pilot project in Toronto. See www.heifer.org
FoodShare gifts 3 of their 6 hives to a group of volunteers and recruits an experienced beekeeper-mentor to work with them. This group of seven is called the “Toronto Beekeeper’s Collective”, a name later changed to “Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative” (herein known as TBCo-op). Toronto’s urban beekeeping legacy has begun! As part of the 50/50 partnership with FoodShare, the main goal of the TBCo-op is to actively manage the beehives under our stewardship, to educate members about bee husbandry and management, and to educate the public about the value of bees to our City’s urban landscape and ecosystem. A great bonus is contributing to the biodiversity and “greening of Toronto”, already one of the world’s greenest cities. See www.torontobees.ca
TBCo-op membership grows to twelve and number of hives to eleven. A FoodShare Urban Agriculture staff person is dedicated to working with the TBCo-op and a part-time beekeeper mentor is hired.
Grant funding is received from TD Friends of the Environment to expand our program and purchase new equipment.
TBCo-op membership, as well as the number of hives, grows to twenty-one. A record honey harvest of over 1600 pounds is achieved that season. Toronto’s honeybees are healthy, happy and prospering.In the fall expansion of the Don Valley watershed results in FoodShare having to leave the Don Valley area and move to 90 Croatia Street (in the Dufferin and Bloor neighbourhood). The bees move to a private property in Guelph to overwinter while a new home for the hives in Toronto is sought. Over a million bees make the trip to Guelph, with members making regular trips out to manage them, but it is important to note that the bees were happier in the City and severe losses over the subsequent two winters result in only half that number later returning.
TBCo-op membership grows to thirty-two. A partnership is formed between The TBCo-op, FoodShare and Evergreen BrickWorks. In April, the bees return to Toronto and take up residence in the Don Valley once again, at The BrickWorks site on Bayview Avenue. Located in a reserve called “Chimney Court” the bees again thrive. Members not only manage the beehives but undertake public demonstrations and presentations and participate in Evergreen programming. By season’s end we have 21 hives under management at BrickWorks.
A new partnership is struck and in May one beehive is gifted to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Toronto’s waterfront by the TBCo-op. The Hotel also purchases two hives, thereby establishing their rooftop apiary. The TBCo-op enters into a partnership arrangement to manage the Fairmont Royal York’s three beehives and receives worldwide attention and accolades as a result. See www.fairmont.com/royalyork
TBCo-op’s membership grows again, to 40 members. The Farimont Royal York Hotel increases the number of hives from 3 to 6. Due to construction at the Evergreen site, the 21 hives are moved from Chimney Court to the rooftop of an administration building at The BrickWorks. Evergreen erects a private staircase and rooftop guardrail to allow beekeepers to tend to the hives on the rooftop. The bees adapt to this new environment but appear to be less than happy with the combination of proximity to rooftop mechanicals and very cool and wet summer weather, thus production of honey is down for the first time. Throughout the season Co-op members are actively involved in many of the educational events at Brickworks, including displays with an observation hive and information booth at many BrickWorks Saturday Farmer’s Markets and Doors Open Toronto and over 20 events at other venues throughout the City.
Negotiations continue in founding more beeyards within Toronto’s City limits, working towards our long term goal of establishing a permanent “Honeybee Learning Centre”. The now 24 beehives at Evergreen’s BrickWorks are moved to facilitate the site’s final phase of construction to Parc Downsview Park (at the Allen Road and Sheppard), through a partnership with FoodCycles. The bees take up residence in a specially designed hexagonally shaped beeyard, nestled among sumach trees and just metres away from FoodCycles greenhouses and chemical-free outdoor gardens.
Our membership increases to its highest historical level, and 60 members are welcomed into the TBC family. Through a new partnership two beehives, including one gifted by the TBCo-op, take up residence at the Toronto Botanical Garden (corner of Lawrence Ave. E and Leslie St.) in a newly established pollinator garden located just outside TBG’s library, where our beekeeping work days are fully visible to members and the public through floor to ceiling windows. The TBCo-op and our bees are featured in their summer long Organic Farmer’s Market.
On April 15, 2011 the Toronto Beekeepers Co-op was awarded a “Green Toronto Award” by the City of Toronto, in the “Local Food” category. This prestigious award recognizes not only our hard work in supporting the bee populations throughout the City but also the valuable work that our honeybees contribute as pollinators, helping boost local food production and making all our gardens more prolific!
The Toronto Botanical Garden increases the number of hives to three, and TBG Weston Family Library develops an extensive collection of bee related resources for use of the public. The hives at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and Parc Downsview Park continue to thrive. Honey from the Fairmont Royal York took 1st place in the Amber Category at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
The TBCo-op adds a new location at the Black Creek Community Farm. Ten hives are moved there from the Downsview location.
And more to come, of course!