Urban agriculture has been vibrant within the City of Toronto long before there have been formalized structures to support and expand production. The Toronto Community Garden Network has been an active community for urban growers for decades. In the past several years, however, The City of Toronto has started to recognize the need to acknowledge the growing urban agriculture movement in Toronto and encourage its expansion. In March of 2000 the TFPC initiated and organised the first “North American Conference on Urban Agriculture”. This conference brought together 100 participants who heard from civic officials, economic development officers, growers, brokers and buyers.
In 2007 local food production was identified as a factor in the Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainability Energy Action Plan, which was unanimously adopted by City Council.
In May of 2009 a staff report was submitted to the Parks and Environment Committee entitled: Identifying Urban Agriculture Opportunities in the City of Toronto. This report followed a panel of experts in the field of urban agriculture who were invited to make presentations to the Committee to discuss urban food production and how the City of Toronto can best support the urban agriculture movement while considering important constraints and opportunities.
In 2012 a number of Toronto food and environmental organizations collaborated to produce the GrowTO Urban Agriculture Action Plan for the City of Toronto. The process for creating this report was through four moderated discussions and two action-planning sessions to delve into the issues and create this document. GrowTO was presented to the Parks and Environment Committee and then adopted by City Council in November 2012. The GrowTO Action Plan became the basis for the Toronto Agricultural Program which was first discussed at the Parks and Environment Committee Meeting in October of 2013 and then to City Council in November 2013. The Toronto Agricultural Program sets out ways to implement the scaling up of urban agriculture initiatives across the city and sets out a workplan to do so. This workplan is geared by the Toronto Agricultural Program joint City-Sector Steering Committee that meets regularly to discuss the implementation, next steps, and challenges.
Black Creek Community Farm
One of the most successful urban agriculture projects in Toronto so far is the establishment of the Black Creek Community Farm. In 2002 the Toronto Region Conservation Authority requested support from the Controlled Goods Program to implement Urban Farm concept. In 2003 they received funding from the Ontario Works Incentive Fund to establish an urban farm over two-year pilot period. In 2007 Toronto City Council approved a base operating budget for what was then called the Toronto Urban Farm initiative in the Jane/Finch neighbourhood. In 2013 Black Creek Community Farm undertook its first growing season and will continue to be a model for other urban agriculture initiatives across the city.
This farm has been built through collaboration between:
- Fresh City Farms
- Afri-Can Food Basket
- Black Creek Community Health Centre
- Toronto Public Health
- Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre
- Driftwood Community Centre
- The Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University
- Green Change
- Toronto Region Conservation Authority