“Aster-naut” winners feted at gala TBG awards ceremony

Presentation of the Aster Awards, now in its third year, is fast becoming the TBG gala celebration of the season.

This year’s Aster recipients: Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut, physician, scientific researcher, photographer and author; Geoff Cape founder and CEO of Evergreen, sustainability pioneer, urban visionary and leading ravine strategist;  and Rising Star winner Arlene Throness,  agricultural coordinator of Rye’s Homegrown Rooftop Farm at Ryerson University, were feted at a fitting ceremony and sit-down reception-style dinner in the Floral Hall. The three were chosen because of their extraordinary achievements advancing the mission of the TBG: to transform our city by connecting people to plants and the natural world.

Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first woman and second Canadian astronaut and first neurologist in space, in 1992, flying aboard the American Space shuttle Discovery, spoke of the importance of getting people of all ages to connect to nature. “We all want to be role models and that means we have to remain committed.” She spoke of doing plant experiments in space, where tomatoes planted in Canadian soil, grew to three times their normal size, and of recognizing that “the natural environment has something to say back to us.”

Geoff Cape, who is also founder of the Evergreen Brickworks, a community environmental centre that inspires and equips visitors to work, live and plan more sustainably, stressed the importance  of connecting children with nature and of integrating nature in cities as a design principal. “I love my work, sharing and trying to move big ideas,” he said.

Arlene Throness, with the help of volunteer students, staff and faculty, has created a 10,000 square foot urban farm growing more than 30 different crops and over 100 varieties on a sixth-floor roof top in downtown Toronto. This year the team harvested more than 8,000 pounds of produce. Arlene was quick to share her success with all those involved including former student Catherine Lung whose original idea it was to grow vegetables on the existing green roof. “The roof is a learning ground,” Arlene said, “a hands-on way to teach students about the sustainability of urban agriculture and how to grow food.”

Attended by representatives from the winners’ various fields as well as TBG board and members, the event, supported by Middlefield Group and Sustainable.TO featured produce harvested from Rye’s Rooftop Farm at Ryerson University and honey from the Toronto Botanical Garden’s beehives. All of the recipients stressed what an honour it was to be recognized for their efforts and Roberta Bondar quipped that “for the first time this will be known as the aster-naut award.”