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Toronto's Growing Urban Agricuture

Image: Interesting Pics / Wikimedia Commons

Image: Interesting Pics / Wikimedia Commons

Renee Tratch
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:53 AM - More Torontonians than ever are growing their own food in backyard gardens, in pots on a patio and in shared spaces at parks or schools. 

And now in vacant lots.

While driving around the city, Rachel Kimel and Deena DelZotto, founders of the Bowery Project, were struck by the number of empty spaces awaiting development and asked “how can we create an organization that grows food there?” 

Last year, the seed was planted and the Bowery Project’s first mobile urban farm - 250 repurposed milk crates - was featured at this year’s Green Living Show. 

For Kimel, the above ground garden offers many advantages. “We’re not planting into the ground because you don’t know how contaminated the soil might be.” 

And the pop-up-style urban farm is all about mobility. It can be disassembled and relocated within 24 hours. Their first farm has since moved to Evergreen Brick Works and now to Todmorden Mills, as part of the outdoor summer-long Eco-Art-Fest opening to the public this Sunday.

They will be growing over 170 crates of produce – varieties of tomatoes, peppers, greens and herbs - to be used as pizza toppings and beer ingredients for festival-goers. Whatever is not used will go to a local food organization.

This first season is a learning process, says Kimel but the duo has big plans. “Our intention is to get about an acre or an acre-and-a-half and grow to 1,000 to 5,000 crates of food.” 

Green thumbs unite: Gardening is a great way to connect with the earth as well as the community. For gardens on park or city-owned land, would-be farmers need to follow the City of Toronto’s gardening implementation process. (According to the City, it usually takes about nine months from initial request to time of breaking ground. Currently, there are about 80 outstanding requests.) Where to grow? The Toronto Community Garden Network has compiled a list of places to garden en masse and a how-to guide on getting the group started. 

Among the biggest? The seven-acre Black Creek Community Farm, a full-scale organic vegetable farm led by the farm-based charity Everdale in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, saw its first harvest last year. 

The non-profit organization FoodShare Toronto also provides tons of resources (and not to mention inspiration) on growing your own food in a community setting. Among the fruits of their labour is a partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which in 2010 created the recreational therapeutic gardening program Growing People Growing Food open to clients who love to garden and enjoy the outdoors. Check out its results:

Share your yard. Maybe you have the space but lack the green thumb or time to see it bloom. Cultivate Toronto’s Share Your Yard program connects urban farmers with those have space to donate. The Stop Community Food Centre also helps set up garden-sharing relationships through their Yes in My Back Yard program and offers a tool-lending library, free gardening workshops and tons of opportunities learn.

Rent a space: The City of Toronto has 11 Allotment Gardens with more than 1,400 assigned garden plots up for grabs for a seasonal fee. Requests and waitlists start in February and new permits are issued in May. 

Get growing: Browse this info on how to Get Growing in Toronto. But if you need some hands-on support, Evergreen Canada offers workshops on how to grow food in any outdoor space and the City of Toronto’s Eco Programs encourages kids to dig in. 

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