4 ways to plant an urban agriculture breakthrough in Toronto


Every neighbourhood needs places to grow, cook, buy and share healthy food.

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That means urban agriculture needs a big scale-up across Toronto. Same with commercial/community kitchens, food stores, markets, street food and community food hubs.

Our city is growing faster than ever, and so it’s time that all new housing and renewals across the City bring this needed infrastructure for new residents and for the existing neighbours.

The City can use existing policies and change a few, to make this a reality. It will require councillors, planners, agencies and developers to work together with residents to make it happen.

Quadrangle Architects

Toronto’s Official Plan, the big map for the future of our City, even calls for community and rooftop gardens, and states, “our future is one where adequate amounts of safe, nutritious, culturally acceptable food are available to all.”

So let’s get to work.

Along with a whole bunch of amazing projects and plans underway like the Urban Agriculture Strategy, these key items could get things growing.

  1. Develop it

Whenever there’s a consultation meeting on a new housing project, a condo or a renewal, Torontonians have to show up and bring food into the discussion. Most developers and planners don’t have food top of mind, but a City full of people who care about improving the food system can make it happen.

Look around your area with your neighbours and ask what’s missing. A food store? A community garden? Access to a kitchen? (Affordable housing??) Bring it up to the planner and councillor and see what can be worked in as Toronto continues to change. Learn how to do it here.

  1. Plan it in

The City is undertaking neighbourhood plans all the time, including some major revitalizations. These need to suit the needs of current residents. Your feedback is critical to getting it right. And the City provides many ways to provide it and engage in the process.

When we “embed” food into these plans, we can actually get some real sway and results when things get moving. Residents in Regent Park raised their voice, it's in the plan and it's happening. Let’s prioritize our neighbourhood food needs in these neighbourhood strategies and follow-up to see that things come together, get them built and operated.

Daniels Corporation

  1. Follow the money

Section 37 is a part of the Planning Act that pushes many developments to lend money for community benefits, like park improvements. They haven't traditionally been used for gardens in parks or kitchens in community centres, but it can all be done.

Councillors, residents and planners need to know that these are options. In fact, a community garden and a new apartment food hub have recently been made possible by taking advantage of good chunks of these funds in Toronto thanks to some foresight. Let’s use what we can do to improve food access.


  1. Green that building

Toronto is lucky enough to have the Toronto Green Standard which provides all sorts of rules and incentives to make new buildings much more sustainable than they would have been. Local food grown on site could give residents or neighbours a five metre diet, reducing food kilometres and farm run-off.

But again, food has been forgotten and is missing from the Standard. Let’s incent developers to green it up and work to build and support growing food (not just sedum) as part of new roofs and adjacent landscapes or parks.

Help push for change.

To get some more details and figure out how you can help make it happen, contact us or check out this advocacy overview.

For some examples and how to talk this up in a nearby development, visit our Building Roots Toolkit.

You can also help advocate for change by endorsing and volunteering with Food Nation and our platform (see point number 1!)

And don't forget to dig in! This'll all need a heck of a lot more urban farmers, facilitators and teachers to make happen.

Darcy Higgins is the Founding Director of Food Forward. He is a consultant with Building Roots, currently developing new urban agriculture, markets, kitchens and food hubs in Toronto. darcy@pushfoodforward.com