Friends group raising $3.6M to save 5 acres of Toronto Waldorf School land

At stake here — saving five acres of biodynamic gardens on an anthroposophical campus — from encroaching suburban sprawl. Photo via Friends of Toronto Waldorf School Foundation.

In case you’ve been wondering why posts on the Bovine have been so sparse lately, one contributing factor may be the editor’s pre-occupation with a controversy closer to home. The Toronto Waldorf School (TWS) has not figured much on the Bovine to date, although the school’s parking lot was, until a few years ago, the meeting place for contact with farm-share members in the city. And although we’ve never mentioned it, many of the Glencolton farm-share or cowshare members have in some way been connected with the school, either as parents or faculty.

Sunrise over the Toronto Waldorf School, as seen from Hesperus.

Over the last eight years the TWS has been running annual deficits that have accumulated into a mortgage of $2.3 million with annual interest costs of $200,000,which increase the deficit even more, to the point where, for the last three years, auditors have questioned the school’s financial viability. Thus, in an effort to pay off the mortgage and set up an endowment fund, the board of the school is planning to sell land which it views as not essential to the mission of the school.

CCG gardeners share a potluck on the land. New wing of Hesperus in the background.

The land to be sold could be as much as 4.5 acres of five acres which was bought in the 90s and used for the school’s gardening program, and for the Carrville Community Garden (CCG). The CCG is a club which has been gardening the land biodynamically for 11 years now. During this time the school has received awards for its ecological achievements. There used to be a large aerial photo of the campus in which the CCG cultivated land featured prominently on display in the school lobby.

Father and daughter gardening together at the community garden, summer 2013.

On the same campus as TWS there is a seniors’ residence, Hesperus, which. like the school, was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. Hesperus has recently expanded from 16 apartments to 80. Also on the campus is a Waldorf teacher education institute (the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto) and a Waldorf bookstore. And there’s also the Village Market, an organic farmers market, taking place every Saturday since the fall of 1991, downstairs in the school. Nowhere else in Canada is there such a concentration of anthroposophically inspired work going on.

Highway sign showing just a few of the major initiatives on the campus at Jarna, Sweden

However, similar campuses exist in Spring Valley, New York, and in Harlemville, New York as well as in many other countries, for example in Jarna Sweden. In Harlemville and Spring Valley, the land ownership is separate from any of the initiatives on the campus (such as Waldorf schools) that take place on the campus. Those Waldorf schools could never sell land. But perhaps the founders in Toronto did not foresee how the campus would develop into more than just a school, and so did not think to separate the land ownership from the school.

Biodynamics and Waldorf together with other anthropsophical initiatives at Jarna, Sweden

To forestall the sale of the land which could limit future anthroposophical developments on the campus, the “Friends of TWS” have come together to build a different solution to the school’s financial needs. The Friends propose to raise “community bonds” in the amount of $3.6 million so they will be able to offer the school a $3 million, low interest, mortgage on the land, and thereby hope to preserve that land for future use by the school or related initiatives. The Friends have a deadline of January 10th (now revised to Jan. 31, 2014) to collect commitments from interested people. If you want to know more about the Friends’ bond offering, you can email friendsoftws@gmail.com

Cover image from Friends’ Community Bond proposal

Conversations about the bond and the proposed TWS land sale have been going on in a closed Facebook group called “TWS Online Forum“. If you’re on Facebook and want to check it out, you can ask to join the group.

One community member’s vision of a possible future on the TWS campus.

Watch a video from December 10th, 2013, on the TWS history and the Friends’ community bond proposal, featuring former TWS board chair George Ivanoff (history) and fundraiser and current TWS parent Jon Duschinsky (bond proposal):

Hi-res: 

http://vimeo.com/81741693

or Low-res: 

http://vimeo.com/81738487

Some background on Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy:

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Friends group raising $3.6M to save 5 acres of Toronto Waldorf School land

  1. Here is a possible Inspiring vision or example for the future wonderful possibilities of the Toronto Waldorf School *** Rudolf Steiner Campus (Rudolf Steinerseminariet ) , Jarna , Sweden . Buildings designed by Architect Erik Asmussen . Highlights: 1. Biological Waste Treatment Ponds 2. Flow Forms Waterfall 3. House of Culture 4. Shops, Restaurant and Office 5. Vidarkliniken Hospital 6. Bird Watcher Cottage. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meAwYTik9cM Includes soothing musical accompaniment !

  2. Petition to save the Toronto Waldorf School farmlands from suburban development:

    http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/toronto-waldorf-school-board-of-directors-support-the-community-bond-alternative-to-land-sale?utm_source=guides&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=petition_created

    Toronto Waldorf School, Board of Directors: Support the Community Bond alternative to land sale

    Petition by
    Friends of TWS Foundation
    With heartfelt goodwill towards the Toronto Waldorf School, its faculty and staff and community members, we, the undersigned, feel that another vision is possible for the Toronto Waldorf School. We therefore ask that the Board of Directors of TWS work together with Friends of TWS Foundation to fully explore and help realize both the Community Loan Trust mechanism and the development of the Foundation to support the school in its core purpose of delivering excellence in Waldorf education.

    We, the undersigned, believe that the land subject to sale is an incalculable community asset whose eventual development should be reserved for mission-related purposes that benefit the school and the wider principles of Steiner. Working together will greatly strengthen our community and bring into being a worthy vision for a multi-faceted campus.

  3. thebovine

    New website for the Friends of TWS Foundation: http://www.friendsoftwsfoundation.org/

  4. thebovine

    Deadline for participation has since been revised to Jan 31, 2014.

  5. IMPORTANT MEETING JANUARY 28 , 2014 ************************************
    We believe the past, present and future of the Toronto Waldorf school, in Thornhill ,demands that we do our utmost to preserve the biodynamically farmed land and teaching garden for educational / anthroposophic type uses. Selling the land for commercial housing closes that possibility forever. Furthermore we believe, along with a great many, that the sale is not necessary and is not the solution to the school’s challenges.
    It appears from messages coming from the TWS board that we are in the final stages of the sale process. We need to bring strong and active voices to the community’s concerns, current needs and future aspirations. We believe that the Friends of TWS Foundation has been able to do some of that but cannot proceed without a groundswell of support directed to the board of the School.
    What you can do:
    – Inform yourself about latest plans and discussion online by visiting the website http://www.friendsofthetorontowaldorfschoolfoundation.com/

    – Attend important meeting hosted by Friends on Tuesday, January 28 at 7pm in The Toronto Waldorf School Music Room at 9100 Bathurst in Thornhill, Ontario .
    Bring your concerns and questions and enthusiasm for an alternative solution

  6. P.S. Facebook Event page for January 28 meeting at the Toronto Waldorf School . https://www.facebook.com/events/616740301709283/

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