Urban agriculture has been steadily taking off in our city over the last number of years, and new and awesome projects seem to be popping up in every corner. The term urban agriculture generally refers to the cultivation of food in urban and suburban areas, but often also encompasses other green food initiatives such as farmers markets, or the reclamation of unused space for growing flowers or vegetables. There are many positive effects of urban agriculture, such as an increase in green space, community involvement in local projects, not to mention readily accessible fresh produce.
Cities with well established urban agriculture sectors have often developed this industry due to necessity. Some international examples of well-regarded urban agriculture can be found in Havana, Berlin, and Detroit. Havana developed intensive urban farming practices in response to their lack of fuel. The cost of transporting food from rural to urban areas is expensive and mostly dependant on oil, so the Cuban government and people responded by cultivating edible crops in urban areas. Berlin developed a massive network of urban gardens during World War II (as did many European cities), again to avoid transporting food over long, potentially dangerous distances in the countryside. Their gardens are fewer in number today than 60 years ago, but are still extensive. Detroit is a slightly different case. With an extremely depressed inner city, space is in excess and crime is high. Expanding gardens have turned urban blight into community space.
Toronto’s industry is not quite so developed, but urban agriculture initiatives are really starting to take off in three major areas:
Public sector: the city is allowing for the cultivation of some public lands;
Private sector: a rise in the cultivation of food in private yards;
Non-profit sector: new community development organizations that are centred around the production of food and community gardening.
Organizations & Websites
Greenest City – charitable organization that grows local organic food, youth leaders and healthy, sustainable communities with a focus on Toronto’s Parkdale-High Park neighbourhood.
Plant a Row, Grow a Row – program which encourages gardeners to plant an extra row for the hungry.
Toronto Community Garden Network – resource linking and providing information about Toronto’s community gardens and providing links to garden events and resources.
Toronto Green Community – non-profit which runs a North Toronto community garden as well as kids’ gardening programs and container garden training across the city.
U of T Campus Agriculture Project – information page on all University of Toronto campus agriculture projects.
Rye’s HomeGrown – information page on Ryerson University’s edible gardens on campus.
Young Urban Farmers – helps people start backyard gardens and runs a non-profit urban agriculture CSA.
Backyard Chickens – the number one destination for information on raising chickens in any urban, suburban, or rural backyard.
City Farmer – Vancouver-based website providing news about urban agriculture around the world.
Growing Power – Milwaukee non-profit providing hands-on training, experience and innovation in methods of urban agriculture.
City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America – Laura J. Lawson.
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer – Novella Carpenter
Making Space for Agriculture, Gary Wilkins, The Edible City: Toronto’s Food from Farm to Fork, Christina Palassio and Lana Wilcox
Edible City – faces of the Food Revolution in America
Ron Finley’s TED Talk – talks about guerilla food gardening in public spaces in South Central Los Angeles