March 2011 Community Meeting Notes – Urban Agriculture

Toronto Youth Food Policy Council

March 7th, 2011Community Meeting -Youth Innovation in Urban Agriculture

Recurring themes:

  • the disconnect between existing small-scale urban ag initiatives, which are successful, exiciting, and generally well-received, and the overall policy environment, which is either hostile or un-supportive
  • a recurring desire by youth to expand and/or commercialize these small-scale ventures
  • the existence of positive models in other municipalities that we can follow
  • the leadership and innovation Toronto youth are showing, in spite of policy obstacles


  • We have all had failed experiences with worms and are now giving them another try
  • Worms are unique because they multiply and need to be shared; they are also self-regulating and will max-out in size when conditions are no longer right
  • We need public education about works, create a behaviour change among potential vermiculture compossers. Ideas include facebook, worm sharing parties, worm clubs and wiki, worm hot lines (web lines), posting on gardening forums, promote existing worms forums (i.e. Cathy’s crawlers)
  • We also need to figure out a way to share worms/compost with CSA’s, farmers and gardeners to make their production more efficient and viable

Urban Ag Outreach at High Schools

  • curriculum – should include gardening and nutrition
  • school gardens/greenhouses/green roofs
  • really push food/garden opportunities in guidance office for volunteer hours
  • should also push a lot of this in junior schools

Urban Beekeeping

  • current bylaws make it effectively illegal to keep bees on typical residential lots
  • nevertheless, high-profile hives around the city (Royal York, etc.) have a positive public image
  • other cities have good models for urban beekeeping that could be adopted

Steps for Developing & Commercializing Urban Farming Initiatives

  • mapping city-specific resources
  • harnessing people-power
  • open-source information sharing
  • creating an overarching organization that can oversee training, setup, infrastructure
  • accessing available land: backyards, schools, rooftops, public land, community gardens
  • creating land-sharing structures
  • tax breaks for gardens and green roofs
  • food hubs could support local larger-scale projects
  • developing business consulting options

Soil Contamination

  • the city should pay, since contamination is often the result of lax past regulation or shifts in land use without intermediary soil remediation
  • innovative approaches to decontamination could be explored; mycroremediation using oyster mushrooms, for example
  • OMAFRA has food safety and tracability resources

Land Access

  • schools
  • public land
  • private land
  • rooftops
  • how do we support people trying to access public spaces?

Accessing Farmers’ Markets as Urban Producers

  • current policy environment, especially health and safety regulations, makes it difficult to commercialize urban-grown produce
  • changes in zoning and business regulations would greatly expand this potential

Zoning & Commercialization

  • there are serious policy prohibitions re: small-scale/casual/seasonal food-related commercial activity
  • selling produce grown on residential/public land commercially isn’t allowed
  • processing products is very difficult, you cannot use residential facilities
  • eggs and chickens aren’t allowed
  • we are hoping for a huge easing-up on these prohibitions, because local food requires an appropriately scaled regulatory apparatus that is sensitive to the size and capacity of urban producers
  • community resources could help us mitigate the public health concerns that stand behind these prohibitions: the creation of urban ag best practices, opening up access to commercial kitchen space for processing, an inspection system, or simply allowing purchasers to assume the liability of purchasing this kind of produce


More pictures from the event below:


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