A farm in the city? Truth be told urban agriculture is taking over globally. Across the world people are building farms on rooftops, parking lots and abandon lots. In Montreal, Lufa Farms (www.lufa.com) has built greenhouses on rooftops of factories. In New York, Brooklyn Grange Rooftop farms (www.brooklyngrangefarm.com) grows everything from kale to collards and has bees too!
In Hong Kong, Rooftop Republic (www.rooftoprepublic.com) is transforming skyscrapers into agricultural hubs helping increase the availability of fresh produce in the heart of one of the world’s most congested cities. These are just a few examples of what many are calling “urban farming.” The question is: Does it make sense?
The global population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. If we do simple math and take our current population we can easily say we will need to double if not triple our food production to feed everyone! When you walk around your community, your city, and your workplace take a look around. Can you spot any unused or underutilized space? Working downtown each day I see rooftops, vacant lots and more. Spaces that can be turned into opportunities to grow and educate people on food! Rooftop Republic says it best on their website: “We believe this is one of the biggest challenges we face today and a global conversation is urgently needed to rethink how we grow, produce, distribute, consume and waste/recycle our food. There is no silver bullet; we need collaboration, imagination, innovation, determination. More importantly we all need to be involved. Failure is not an option!”
I took this challenge to heart! Just last month my CityLine friends (Massimo Capra, Bruce Sellery and Shoana Jensen), a group of volunteers, the staff of Yorkdale Shopping Centre, my wife and boys and I built a test farm on approximately 1,000 square feet on top of Yorkdale’s south parkade, directly above the Go bus terminal.
We call the project Elevated Eats. A goal to elevate fresh food in urban cities while elevating food education and food growing within Toronto’s youth. Modelled after Fenway Farms in Boston at Fenway park (greencitygrowers.com/fenway-farms), Elevate Eats is a system growing in crates; this year we will grow 25 different varieties of herbs, vegetables and fruit. The bulk of the produce will be shared with local food banks giving fresh food choices to those hungry in the surrounding area.
Where do we grow from here? My vision is to expand this simple concept of growing in crates across Oxford Properties in the GTA and beyond. I feel the benefits of urban farming beyond just producing food. Elevated Eats can teach a generation how to grow something they can eat and better yet, value the food they eat daily. Fresh food locally grown at your favourite shopping centre — farms in the city make sense! For more information on Elevated Eats go to www.frankieflowers.com.