Urban farming takes root

It’s a concept that represents clear thinking about getting our hands dirty.

Calgary gardeners are already looking forward to that moment when a tomato will no longer taste like a tennis ball. That moment when they pluck that first fruit and rediscover its actual flavour. 

The City of Calgary shares this interest in locally grown produce. But on a somewhat larger scale. Besides the community gardens that are sprouting up all over town, the city is pulling on its metaphorical overalls and getting back to the land. This summer, the plan is bearing fruit in the form of markets at CTrain stations. It is also responsible for the urban farm that has taken over a vacant parcel of land on Highfield Crescent in the southeast.

The urban-farming trend is gathering steam far beyond our city, too. Earlier this year, Ikea teamed up with the designer Tom Dixon on a “conceptual garden.” The garden showcased “hyper-local” farming and its nutritional and environmental benefits. It also served as the prototype for products that Ikea hopes to have on its shelves by 2021. The vision is that people will be able to grow at least some of their own food. it all depends on how much space is available, but Ikea sees greens being grown on everything from countertops to rooftops. 

Urban agriculture could see cities become food-production centres and would give new meaning to the term “urban growth.” Montreal recently won the $50-million Smart Cities Challenge with a proposal that ”included a urban greenhouse project that was one part of a strategy to increase “access to fresh and locally grown food.”  Such a shift would have environmental benefits, but it won’t happen overnight. Like plant growth, this is a slow process of addition. 

That’s what makes the City of Calgary’s urban-farming initiatives bigger than the sum of their parts. In 2012, the City founded CalgaryEATS!, its food action plan, with the goal of creating a “sustainable and resilient food system for the Calgary region.” The new urban farm is part of that plan. It will let the City study the best way to support more of these ventures. It is also designed to give Calgarians the inspiration to take on some small-scale agriculture of their own.

That might seem like a humble goal. But then, planting a few seeds can seem inconsequential. But just wait a while. Plants are silent when growing, but they can make a lot of noise when they start producing food. 

June 19th, 2019

Planting a seed for a more sustainable food system.