I read this piece in Atlantic Cities today and it discussed, while the urban farming movement is taking off, there is a lack of farmers. It also went on to say, that during the summer months, most gardens and crops are neglected because urban farmers go on vacation.
Is this the case in Toronto?
Most people take 2 weeks holidays during the summer. Very few take the whole summer off, and they are probably rich enough to hire a gardener anyway. :)
There are dozens of active farms in Toronto, though they're not growing vegetables.
Last summer, I was a member of a two-acre "urban farm" north of Toronto in a suburban neighbourhood. The land is "donated", the members pay a yearly fee, work the garden together, and harvest based on hours contributed.
It was very difficult to get members to come out on a regular basis, and often, the time-sensitive activities that were not completed resulted in waste (eg. cucumbers were not watered in time, we lost them) or lack of crop in the first place. In fact, quite a bit of the land went unused in the first place.
Not sure what the answer to this problem is, but part of it is political (none of this food is allowed to be sold in any way, shape, or form) and part of it is social (people do not perceive that they need to do all this extra hard work (and it is rather back-breaking work) in order to get vegetables on the table when they can easily purchase anything they like in the nearest grocery store. Notwithstanding the fact that these vegetables were much healthier than what one would get in the grocery store (it was organically grown with strict bio-dynamic procedures), the education portion of this equation need also be addressed, although I sense that people prefer to limit their knowledge to what they learn in school about Canada's Food Guide (which has been lambasted in some of the nutrition classes I've attended) instead of taking the time to really understand how their bodies appreciate good quality food.
Side note: read a really interesting book around the same time that I was a member of this garden, written by an American farmer, Joel Salatin, with a mid-sized farm, just trying to make a living and exercise his ability to take advantage of free-enterprise in the agricultural area, and it was tellingly called: "Everything I Want to Do is Illegal". My conclusion was that it was important for anyone really interested in urban farming to also understand municipal bylaws in the area.
Transition Town, RIchmond Hill, Ontario
I am an urban farmer. i am a founder of Truly Local, www.trulylocal.ca
we at Truly Local are not stuck in the mud, as we use hydroponics/aquaponics. most urban farmers in toronto still focus on soil. we grow year round, 24/7. we have decentralized the farm to each person's apartment, closet, kitchen, etc.
there is indeed a lack of farmers, but also a lack of arable land within the GTA.
one can make soil, but real estate is not cheap here. i've often thought of using the lake and a barge or two.
crops need not be neglected if one has drip irrigation set up along with an aerated reservoir.
more farmers are being trained at new programs sprouting up thorughout the country at post-secondary institutions. they hopefully have been trained in basic hydroponic methodology.
we are focusing on people's living space, as well as renting rooftops etc.
hydroponics can use less than a tenth the water when compared to conventional farming.
also yeild and speed can be improved by a factor when switching to hydro.
organic, gmo-free, pesticide-free, user-friendly and not too hard really.
There are too many trees and tall buildings in cities, leaving no root space in the soil, and very little sun. I've tried gardening near a row of trees, and the yield was about 1/3 what I get in open soil, and the second year the yield was close to zero, or about 1/20th of the open soil, and fine tough tree roots were everywhere in the garden.
Hydroponics does sound like a good idea.