Urban Farming in Toronto and the GTA

April 6, 2017 | Green Living

Urban Farming in Toronto and the GTA

David McConnachie, Publisher, Alternatives Journal (A\J)

Food nourishes us, food powers us and food helps us to connect with our friends and families.

However, for most of us living in an urban area, we’re a bit disconnected from the sources of our food. It is grown and cultivated somewhere else – and then trucked and shipped, sometimes for thousands of kilometers, to our supermarkets and restaurants.

This distance from field/farm to our table has many negative consequences, from higher carbon footprints (and higher prices) through to a tendency to see food as an abstract concept, which leads to the stunning reality that North Americans throw out almost 40% of the food that they buy. Many groups have worked to bridge this troubling divide, and we’ve seen a lot of positive momentum for ‘100 mile diets’ and locally-sourced products delivered from the nearest farm to our cities.

But could our cities also be our farms? And should they?

For a group of forward-thinking individuals and organizations, those questions are more than rhetorical; in fact, they are already working to make our urban homesteads into self-sustaining sources of fruit, vegetables and other sources of nutrition. From backyard growing through to community-shared agriculture, from organic markets through to urban orchards, there exists a world of opportunities for harvesting the benefits of growing your own food in Toronto, the GTA and Canada’s other urban communities.

At the 2017 Green Living Show, Alternatives Journal will be presenting a panel discussion (Friday, April 7 at 3:15 on the Main Stage) on the topic of urban agricultural, and they’re certain that your appetite will be whetted for both the knowledge and the nutrients to be gained. We’re pleased to welcome leading experts in the area of urban agriculture, including:

  • Susan Poisner, Orchard People, who’ll help us understand the benefits (and downsides) of starting your own small orchard in your own backyard.
  • Rhonda Teitel, Toronto Urban Growers, will share with us the tools and tips we need to begin taking our first steps on creating our own close-to-home food sources.
  • Brandan Hebor, Ripple Farms, who is building an aquaponics business that leverages the waste products from fish tanks to fertilize vegetables.
  • Lara Kelly, Holly Ray Farms, will share insights gleaned from her working farm and her urban agricultural consulting practice.
  • Ashlee Cooper, Evergreen, who takes the lead on urban agricultural efforts – CSA and community gardens, in particular – for Toronto’s leading destination for eco-learning.

Growing your own food in your own backyard isn’t a new concept, however. Generations of Torontonians have quietly grown fruits and vegetables and shared that bounty with their friends.

David McConnachie, publisher of Alternatives Journal, can recall a friend from University coming to class with a bushel basket full of Roma tomatoes, courtesy of his ‘nonna’ (grandmother) and her backyard garden. And he remembers his mother reminiscing about her Glaswegian ‘victory garden’ during WWII, an iteration of a time-honoured way for citizens of countries facing war and strife to become more self-sufficient as it pertains to food.

Today, we’re coming to understand that there are a myriad of benefits beyond simple freshness that happen when your harvest close to home. You’ll be reducing your carbon footprint AND you’ll be reducing your food budget. You’ll be getting outdoors, digging your fingers into the dirt, and soaking up the Vitamin D. You’ll be connecting with friends, family and neighbours, sharing seeds and recipes, and trading your excess celery for their excess tomatoes. And you’ll gain a healthy respect for the work that goes into growing food, and a greater appreciation for those Canadians who do this for a living.

Above all, you’ll be deepening your connection with nature and increasing your appreciation for the wonder that happens when a seed becomes supper. Food for thought has never been tastier… or more nutritious!

We hope you will join us for the upcoming panel – and we look forward to reading more urban agriculture stories and seeing more produce photos as the growing season unfurls.