Community Food Growing at FoodShare — Urban Agriculture Week 2021
This past week we celebrated Urban Agriculture Week in Toronto by sharing on our social media some of the amazing urban agriculture work our Community Food Growing team is doing.
Here’s a quick recap of the great work our teams are doing, from farming to beekeeping to composting to gardening!
The community in Flemingdon Park has turned a dream into reality with Flemo Farm — a half-acre urban farm located in a hydro corridor that runs through Don Mills. The farm is a partnership between FoodShare and the Flemingdon Health Centre, with support from several groups, including the City of Toronto.
After many years of planning with guidance from the community and the farm’s steering committee, Flemo Farm officially broke ground in October 2020.
There are now six community farmers working on their own farming projects at flemo:
- Charles Catchpole, an Anishnabe chef who owns Charger Foods and runs Gitigaanes (“little farm” in Ojibway);
- Shamima and her parents, with their farm The Giving Vine;
- Zakera, who runs Eden Farm where she enjoys planting a variety of peppers for her friends and family and melons for her children;
- Lal, a retired computer specialist whose plots you can always spot lined up perfectly neat;
- Alysha, who runs Rogue Farms where they participate in land-sharing to turn unused spaces into productive gardens;
- and Alicia, a community organizer and founder of Unified We Grow, who sells her produce via her business Alvena Lovely.
The incredible Flemo Farm farmers sell their produce at a weekly market — stop by and say hello on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm until October 30th at 150 Grenoble Drive!
FoodShare currently has two staff members working directly with bees: Luc, our Urban Beekeeper Senior Coordinator; and Patrick, the Toronto Beekeepers Collective Educator.
The Toronto Beekeepers Collective emerged out of FoodShare’s urban agricultural initiatives in the early 2000s. They are a collective of avid beekeepers that care for hives across the Greater Toronto Area. The collective is committed to teaching Torontonians about apiculture and bees, and advocating on their bee-half about the critical role bees play in pollination, food production and the environment.
The team manges six different hive sites across Toronto, including one at Black Creek Community Farm, one at the Royal York Hotel and one at the Ontario Science Centre. You can even purchase honey harvested from these hives on our Good Food Box website!
You can follow the un-bee-lievable adventures of Luc, Patrick and the Toronto Beekeepers Collective on Instagram at @humblebee and @torontobeekeeperscollective.
This amazing team of youth turns underutilized Toronto District School Board lands into productive urban farms across Toronto. Through the Canada Summer Jobs progra, students have the opportunity to learn farming and entrepreneurial skills over eight weeks during July and August.
In an effort to create more lasting employment opportunities for youth — in particular Black and Indigenous youth and those of colour — we launched a Youth Entrepreneur program in 2020, providing employment for an additional eight months during which youth learn how to manage a farm and run their own business. Check out some of the incredible Youth Grown farmers on Instagram at @earthknownfarm, @rootedinchangefarm and @williemaefarmacy!
The current School Grown farm is located at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute (BCI) in Etobicoke, right beside the bustling highway 427. Read more about School Grown and get a tour of BCI farm here!
Tucked in behind the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Queen Street campus in Toronto’s west end lies an oasis of fruits, veggies and flowers. A partnership between FoodShare and CAMH for nearly 20 years, the Sunshine Garden is Canada’s first ever market garden on hospital grounds.
Gardening and mental health go hand-in-hand. Every year, more than 30 CAMH clients sow seeds, water plants and harvest produce at the Sunshine Garden. In spring and summer, folks grow, compost, cook and preserve their harvest as well as selling their treasures at the weekly garden market. During fall and winter months, clients raise seedlings in the nearby greenhouse and learn a variety of skills via workshops.
Atullya, FoodShare’s CAMH Garden Coordinator and Community Gardens Lead, tells us that the garden meets people where they are at. “It’s a place to work and dig and harvest if that’s what you need, but it’s also a place to just be.” He also told us they are experimenting with being at one with the pests — by doing things like leaving water out for the squirrels, so that they don’t bite into the fruits and vegetables as much when they are thirsty; and leaving more of the weeds be, “because they grow there so maybe they are supposed to be there.”
Atullya left us with so much wisdom, including this gem: “the garden has good days and bad days just like we do, and that’s okay.”
Stop by the Sunshine Garden’s market stand every Thursday from 4-5:30pm until the end of September to get your hands on some lovingly grown local produce. Or, visit the garden virtually here!
Did you know that FoodShare runs the largest mid-scale compost program in Toronto? Located next to our School Grown team’s urban farm at BCI, the compost exchange program is powered by community members who trade kitchen scraps for fresh produce vouches to be used at the farm’s market. Many of the folks who participate in this program live in apartment buildings where composting is not supported, meaning the program helps divert food scraps from the landfill.
FoodShare also has a vermicomposting site at our headquarters, where a team of earthworms and red wigglers do the hard work of breaking down food scraps to make rich plant food! It only takes the worms a few weeks or months and the resulting compost helps gardens irrigate better.
Our incredible compost team also helps support 48+ community sites across Toronto with their composting needs, including providing training and resources.
Community gardens are pieces of land where folks get together to grow food and create a vibrant community space. Whether you have 100 garden plots or a 50-square foot rooftop patch, you’re part-taking in urban agriculture!
FoodShare now supports over 400 community gardens across Toronto by providing resources, tools and advice, and every year that number grows. Some of our proud partner garden locations include Dallington Park Garden and Emmett Avenue Garden.
Are you interested in starting a community garden? We have a plethora of online resources to help you get started.
Our city is full of farmable land, and you can grow food close to home at one of so many community gardens across Toronto — find your local community garden here!
Thanks for following along with us for Urban Agriculture Week — there are still some events happening over the weekend, check them out here!