September 22, 2023

Urban Agriculture Week 2023

Farmer Feature Series

For Urban Agriculture Week 2023, we’re featuring some of the incredible farmers who work alongside folks on our Community Food Growing team.

Read on to learn about what they’re up to and all the great work they’re doing.

Saima’s Harvest Heaven

Saima is one of nine community farmers at Flemo Farm. She runs Saima’s Harvest Heaven, where she grows food for her family and community.

Flemo Farm is a community-developed initiative that has transformed an underutilized grass area in a hydro corridor into a vibrant community space growing food for the residents of Flemingdon Park. The farm is divided into two sections: the larger section where nine farmers from the community grow produce to sell at the weekly market just next door, and the smaller section of communal plots managed by FoodShare staff who donate their harvest to the community.

Saima started her farm this year, growing 15 different crops in her 3 beds including spring onions, corns, watermelons, carrots, and chickpeas. “We use organic and traditional methods and soils for our farm,” Saima tells us.

Saima had a very successful first season at the farm. “My biggest accomplishment was when my all summer crops were ready to harvest, and the other farmers and team members gave me a big thumbs up for all my efforts and hardwork,” she shares.

“When my lettuce was ready, I weighed them, recorded them at the farm, brought them home, and I gave them to my friends too. My family and friends were so happy. That was a blessed moment for me.”

After this farming season comes to an end, Saima is already itching for more: “I will start my nursery for the next season. I will prepare next year’s seedlings under the grow light on my balcony.”

And one takeaway she learned this year that she’ll implement for next year? “I will keep a proper distance between my tomato seedlings… they were too close together this time!”

Finally, we asked Saima what her favourite dish was to make with crops grown on her farm. She shares her delicious recipe for Chaulai Ka Saag — see below.

Thanks to Saima for sharing all about her wonderful Harvest Heaven with us.

Ekow and Kevin – Earth Known Farm

This talented duo are part of our Youth Grown program, an initiative of the School Grown team at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute (BCI). A section of plots at BCI Farm (pictured) are dedicated to these budding young farmers who are just beginning their careers in farming. The rest of the plots are managed by FoodShare’s School Grown team, who grow produce that is supplied to our social enterprise and sold at their weekly neighbourhood market.

Ekow and Kevin started Earth Known Farm in the spring of 2021 with an interest in growing cut flowers, some herbs and a few vegetables. “We began with 3600 sqft and grew a wide range of crops. We quickly realized in our first year that it was too wide a range and that we were way in and over our heads,” Ekow and Kevin explain. “We now grow on a 1/3 of what we did in our first year and far less variety of cut flowers.”

Despite the reduction in variety this year, they grow all sorts of flowers with which they create beautiful arrangements. “We grow sunflowers, zinnias, asters, snapdragons, straw flower, yarrow and echinacea. We also harvest from the wide range of wild flowers and grasses that grow at BCI Farm for our flower arrangements.”

“We’d say that this is the best year yet as we have a clear understanding of what our goals are and are confident in our capacity to see the growing season through.”

For Ekow and Kevin, Earth Known is a passion project: “We love farming, growing flowers and creating bouquets. We love seeing the face of people when they receive our bouquets for the first time. Flowers elevate the spirit!” They certainly do!

“Earth Known is about two friends growing flowers for our friends, loved ones and community. We’re grateful to be a part of Youth Grown because it gives us the opportunity to do this without the pressure of making it our main source of income.”

The highlight of the year for Ekow and Kevin was their Flower Share, a subscription service they created. “It gave us an easy way to share our bouquets in a way that’s consistent and rewarding,” they explain. “In the past, we struggled to get our flowers out to people. Markets were too much work and pop-ups were inconsistent. Having a subscription that folks pay for in advance worked for us as it covered our expenses and put a little money in our pockets.”

If you’d like to support Ekow and Kevin and purchase a bouquet of your own, follow Earth Known Farm on Instagram @earthknownfarm ??

Lal – Zambezi Farm

Originally from Sri Lanka, Lal later spent time working on two farms in Zambia: one ten-acre farm and the other over a thousand-acre ranch! Lal worked a total of seven years between these farms, but one thing he felt passionately about was the need for more organic practices in farming.

“Our farming method is fully organic. We never use harmful chemicals,” Lal shares about his work at Zambezi Farm. In case you’re wondering, Lal named his farm after a river located between Zambia and Zimbabwe — an homage to his time spent there.

This is Lal’s third year farming at Flemo, so he’s been trying out a few new tricks. “I am experimenting with space saving methods, inserting crops in the available spaces without disturbing the main crop so that instead of weeds growing uncontrollably, we have something edible in that space,” he explains. Truly the genius of a former computer specialist like Lal!

For Lal, the opportunity to farm at Flemo was a dream come true. “I always loved gardening. I like to grow all kind of things, just to experiment. Since moving to Canada, I got a break with the Flemingdon Farm to pursue my passion.”

Thanks for following our Farmer Feature series for Urban Agriculture Week 2023. Huge shoutout to all of the other Youth Grown farmers at BCI Farm and the seven other community farmers at Flemo. Special shoutout to Seyed who volunteered for two years at Flemo before beginning his own farm this year!

The Flemo Farm market runs on Saturdays from 10am-1pm until October 14th. Stop by and say hello to Lal and Saima! ??