As an organization that teaches people how to grow vegetables in Toronto, we love seeing our students grow an abundance of food in their backyards and on their balconies. What we didn’t expect was the power of collaborative learning in urban agriculture communities throughout the city. Sharing growing tips, garden memories, and harvest recipes bring people together and expand our appreciation of one another. These collaborations encourage more people to grow food and even inspire some to explore urban farming as a career.
We recently asked our Grow Veggies students and Growing Urban Farmers participants how growing food helps build community for them, and the benefits were plenty:
- Getting to know people in your neighbourhood and across the city.
- Sharing knowledge (and food!) with others.
- Learning about foods that are important to people of different backgrounds.
- Opening up opportunities to work at urban farms.
- Improving access to nutritious food, which helps communities grow and thrive.
- Fostering a sense of home, belonging, and connection.
Urban agriculture communities can be created and nurtured by individuals as well as by organizations. Our Grow Veggies participants have shared their growing knowledge throughout the city – at urban farms, community gardens, backyard garden collectives, children’s gardens, and non-profit-run gardens where the harvest is used to increase food security in the city.
As a larger-scale example, our teaching garden is located on an 11-acre urban farm spearheaded by Fresh City Farms and shared with eight farm partners who grow and sell fresh produce, make compost tea, supply local food security initiatives, employ urban farmers, and deliver programming to people of all ages. While the current farm space has only been around since 2022, community-building has already taken root. These small businesses and non-profit organizations partner on community supported agriculture boxes, run a collective farm stand, share resources and knowledge, host farm tours, and collectively contribute to making the urban farm a hub for the community. Surrounded by busy park space and new homes, the farm is a space that welcomes everyone to walk through, learn about growing vegetables, and connect with local farmers.
As you grow your garden, we encourage you to think about the community that you can build in your neighbourhood and beyond. There is such joy in giving and receiving food grown in someone’s garden, meeting existing neighbours and welcoming new ones, and being part of a community that grows together and thrives together.
Homestead Toronto’s mission is to teach people how to grow food in the city. Our Grow Veggies program gives people the skills and confidence to grow their own food in whatever space they have available. We offer a 7-month in-person program where students get hands-on learning at our teaching garden in Toronto and a share of the harvest, as well as an online program. We've also launched Growing Urban Farmers, a program that provides training, experience, and opportunities for people wanting to explore a career in urban farming. Follow us @HomesteadTO.