With the world’s population expected to boom to as many as 11 billion people by 2050 and more and more people looking to go green and buy locally, urban farming is growing in popularity in Toronto and other cities around the world.
Toronto welcomed two more urban farms in recent days, with food plants being grown in crates in order to help feed some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
At Scadding Court Community Centre, a new crate garden installed by urban gardening initiative The Bowery Project and local volunteers will see 250 square feet of food being grown.
It features 500 milk crates stacked two crates high, with plants being grown in the uppermost crate. Given that soil in cities often contains contaminants, the two-crate stacks help ensure the soil in which the food is grown is clean and free of toxins.
Rachel Kimel, who co-founded The Bowery Project (www.boweryproject.ca) with Deena DelZotto a few years ago, said the Scadding crate garden would support the surrounding community in several ways.
“The food grown here will support Alexandra Park throughout its revitalization, along with the (Scadding Court) community centre and its food programs and a local youth centre,” she said. “It’s also a good way to engage local youth. Alexandra Park youth will do the maintenance work, and it helps connect people because when you’re out getting dirty in the garden, there are no language barriers.”
The garden is one of several initiated by Kimel and DelZotto since 2014.
“We have a site outside the YMCA buiding at 7 Vanauley with 1,500 milk crates where all the food gets directed into the homeless shelter,” said Kimel.
Scadding Court Community Centre executive director Kevin Lee said his organization would also provide volunteers to help maintain the new crate garden, adding that a local women’s shelter has also offered to lend a hand.
“It’s a great initiative to help animate urban spaces and create edibles here in the city,” he said. “This project fits in with our plan to help improve food security and food access in the community.”
Yorkdale Shopping Centre has also added a new urban farm, led by Frank Ferragine (also known as Frankie Flowers) to help boost sustainability initiatives and give back to the community.
“I got the idea when I first saw Fenway Farms at Fenway Park in Boston and thought ‘that’s pretty compelling,’” Ferragine said. “I’d been helping Yorkdale with their internal planting to help make it more welcoming and saw they have a lot of roof space that would be great to grow food on.”
While the initial plan was to plant Yorkdale’s Elevated Eats urban farm – which grows plants in specialized crates – atop Yorkdale’s food court, the ability of the roof to support such a structure, the fact that Yorkdale is in a flight path and other issues led to the initiative being moved, at least for the time being, to the office building parking deck at 1 Yorkdale Road (south end of the mall).
“Right now it’s a test farm,” Ferragine said. “It’s about 1,000 square feet but the goal next year is to grow it to 5,000 square feet.”
That should be possible once the shopping centre’s renovation is complete.
Elevated Eats features more than 25 kinds of edibles, including herbs such as rosemary, basil and oregano, several types of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and more. The food grown and harvested there, or proceeds from the sale of the food, will go toward Daily Bread Food Bank.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said Yorkdale Shopping Centre general manager Claire Santamaria. “It’s also an extension of the sustainable initiatives we have here. For instance, 60 per cent of our expansion’s roof area will be a green roof with the runoff being used as grey water in our toilets and for other non-drinking water uses.”
The urban farm will also be open to school groups who can learn more about farming at the site.
For more information on Elevated Eats or to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.frankieflowers.com