Rachel Kimel and Deena DelZotto see Toronto’s vacant lots as opportunities to create a bit of paradise in the city. While the founders of Bowery Project, a non-profit that fills unused land spaces with mobile urban farms (their produce is grown in milk crates), want to create beautiful green spaces, it’s so much more than that.
Each farm they install is designed to actively support the community where it’s located – they often donate the food that’s grown or they work with social service organizations to train people how on how to farm on-site. “It’s really about the community,” says Kimel. “Because you’re taking a space that’s within a community that would be otherwise unused, so let’s make it a positive, beautiful, productive, animated space.”
Kimel and DelZotto are part of a group of pioneers in the emerging urban farming sector. Essentially these farmers are growing produce right in the city – on rooftops, in repurposed warehouses, in yards – to, in part, help create a stronger connection between consumers, their food and the people who grow it.
Over the last few years the idea of urban farming has expanded from the traditional community garden to for-profit operations, outfits, like Bowery Project, with a strict social purpose, and hybrids, which encompass a bit of both. “How food is produced has changed greatly in the last five years,” says James Kuhns, a coordinator at Toronto Urban Growers, a network of people involved in urban agriculture. “At one point it was community gardens, but now there are highly capitalized farms in urban areas.”