Gobble up Urban Agriculture!

Eating good food and growing food certainly quality as a couple of my favourite things!

For the past several years, through media, friends, colleagues and clients, I’ve experienced a growing awareness of the complexity of food we put in our mouths and meals.  At one end of the the discussion is the growing market for healthy food providers, including free range, local and organic foods.  At the other end of the spectrum lies rising levels of obesity and diabetes related to fast food, poor nutrition, and sedentary lifestyles.

Toronto is known as a North American leader in the global movement for sustainable food. Final boxIn August 2012, the Urban Agriculture Summit brought together hundreds of professionals who engage in the food and nutrition discussion through a particular lens … what about food grown within our cities?  How can urban agriculture play a meaningful role in our daily lives? Although the Summit had one theme – ‘around the world, people are growing food in cities – broadly speaking, two distinct voices emerged as we solicited content for the 4-day Summit that took place at Ryerson University, Toronto.

SWPUrbanAg

City grown food for social good: A social enterprise and social justice contingent – lead by Summit partner and dynamite Toronto NGO FoodShare –  meets the need for healthy food for everyone, not just those who can presently afford to eat the best and often most costly food.  Keynote speaker Will Allen, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and Founder and CEO of  esteemed American organization Growing Power, delivered practical ideas of how to feed those in need while providing life skills, social stability and a healthier future to low income and disenfranchised communities.  Local organizations that are literally breaking ground in this area include the Toronto Food Policy Council (who announced their ‘GrowTO Urban Agriculture Action Plan” at the Summit),The Stop Community Food Centre, Sustain Ontario and many other amazing, effective and admirable non-profit initiatives that serve citizens in the Greater Toronto Area.

Building the business case for Urban Ag: The flip side of Summit programming focused on the business case for urban agriculture: How to grow food in cities and turn a profit? Black Current Marketing exists to support businesses that  target a sustainable future, so it was particularly gratifying to gather together inspiring pioneers in this field.  Paul Lightfoot, the CEO of BrightFarms, finances, builds and operates greenhouse farms on the rooftops of supermarkets, cutting time, distance and cost from the produce supply chain. Martin Blake, VP at developer Daniels Corporation, believes “urban agriculture is essential to life in the 21st century city. That is why we … are adding balcony and roof top food production gardens, edible landscaping, composting and urban agriculture initiatives to our condominium communities”.  Architect Joe Lobko of DTAH is a visionary urban designer who has brought multi-disciplinary social hubs like the Evergreen Brick Works to life.

Inspiring solutions to some of our greatest challenges!  Thanks to client Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, I was able to meet leaders in the urban agriculture community from across the GTA and well beyond our city, to learn and be inspired by a diversity of individuals and groups who aim higher for our social and economic health.  Read the resulting Summit declaration, written by dynamo Wayne Roberts, on the Summit blog.  Photos of the event provided by Green Fuse Photographer Laura Berman.

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