Feeding Diversity

Community Access and Commercialization of World Crops

How can we make locally grown, culturally-specific vegetables to the city’s dense, diverse, and low-income neighbourhoods? To answer this question, the TFPC and Toronto Public Health (Food Strategy team) have embarked on an exciting project in partnership with Niagara-based Vineland Research and Innovation Centre – an organization that is at the forefront of horticultural and market research for Ontario-grown world crops.

Since 2010, Vineland has been researching over a dozen crops that are both in-demand amongst GTA eaters and are not yet being commercially produced in Canada. Vegetables like okra, bottle gourd, callaloo, Thai hot peppers, and yard long beans all traditionally grow in warmer climates, but farm trials around the Greenbelt and Southern Ontario have proven that they can indeed thrive here. Plus, with $732 million worth of South Asian and Afro-Caribbean crops being imported into the GTA annually,[1]  it’s clear that there is a demand.

To encourage local farmers to grow for this burgeoning market, Vineland’s research is being transferred to interested growers as they pilot these crops for themselves using demonstrated best-practices. As the production of locally grown world crops scales up, these crops will be making their way to retailers in and around the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Through Vineland’s partnership with the TFPC and Toronto Public Health, the Feeding Diversity project is identifying strategies to make culturally appropriate vegetables more widely available in Toronto’s underserved neighbourhoods, and aims to ultimately substitute these often imported products with locally grown versions.

With funding from the J.W. McConnell Foundation, the project has assessed the market opportunities for world crops across the city, and will soon move to a business planning phase to explore new models for making these crops available in Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods that lack access to fresh produce.

Some Recent Coverage of Locally Grown World Crops

Globe and Mail: Exotic Vegetables Coming Soon from a Farmer Near You

The Grower: Growers bring home vegetables from the global village

Yonge Street Media: How we can grow our own (not so) exotic ingredients right here in the GTA



[1] Adekunle, B., Filson, G. C., & Sethuratnam, S., edited by Bloom, S. and Young, C. (2010). Growing International: Exploring the Demand for Culturally Appropriate Foods, Preferences for Ethno-cultural Vegetables in the Greater Toronto Area. Guelph: FarmStart. Available at: http://www.farmstart.ca/publications/