Urban agriculture as a whole is on the rise in Toronto – this year, the mayor’s office recognized Toronto’s first Urban Agriculture Day on Sept. 15, marking a milestone for the city’s growing community of practitioners.
Even before this year’s recognition by Mayor John Tory, Toronto had been hailed as a leader in the field thanks to the GrowTO Urban Agriculture Action Plan unanimously approved by City Council in 2012 to provide a framework for encouraging the growth of urban agriculture.
Through networking meetings, public forums and lobbying, the group has done just that, and – working with the Toronto Food Policy Council – was largely behind efforts to bring Toronto’s Urban Agriculture Day to fruition.
Experts explain that supporting urban agriculture citywide is crucial because projects such as community gardens or larger-scale operations such as Black Creek Community Farm not only provide access to healthy and affordable food but offer skills and job training.
Established in 1991 as a subcommittee of the Toronto Board of Health, the TFPC focuses on the city’s food policy as a whole, a large part of which includes strategies for increasing urban agriculture.
This year’s first Urban Agriculture Day was preceded by a week of tours around the city led by TUG and the TFPC, seeking to expose some of the ways urban agriculture can result in healthy, low-cost food, engagement of isolated communities such as seniors and people living with mental illness, as well as promising entrepreneurial ventures.
As a permanent city employee through the food policy council is undoubtedly beneficial, but if Toronto hopes to follow the lead of other cities and adopt projects such as these, many suggest another city staff member dedicated to urban agriculture is needed.
Such farms would be a new hybrid model meshing community gardens with farmers’ markets, creating economic development to support low-income communities.
New entrepreneurs are also cropping up, large developers such as the Daniels Corporation have shown interest in building rooftop farms and members of city government and community organizers are increasingly advocating for the benefits urban-agriculture projects.