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Entries in rooftop gardens (5)


Tomatoes, cukes, and zukes growing in elevated conduit on rooftops in refugee camps, West Bank


Urban Ag book signing event: Toronto City Hall, Aug 16, 6:30 pm to 8 pm FREE

Hello Book Friends, Food Gardeners and Urban Farmers:

I will be in Toronto as a speaker at the Urban Agriculture Summit soon. I will be presenting slides and a talk from two chapters (Paris and London) of my book on Thursday, Aug 16 from 10:30 to noon. I'm sure you can still register for the conference if you wish. It looks like a very comprehensive program!

But there will be a free event on Thurs Aug 16 in the evening that I'd like to invite you to (and invite or please bring friends). I will be there signing my book (which will be for sale) and Will Allen, author of The Good Food Revolution -- and who is featured in the Milwaukee chapter of my book -- will be the keynote speaker that evening.

Here's the info:

August 16 - Toronto City Hall Green Roof Tour (6:00-6:30pm) and Growing the City: the Urban Agriculture Action Plan Celebration, Reception, and Book-Signing Event (6:30-8:00pm)

A reception to launch the GrowTO Urban Agricutlure Action Plan.  Hosted by the Toronto Food Policy Council, the reception at City Hall is a public celebration of green ideas and innovations, and will serve to put Toronto on the map as a leader in urban agriculture and sustainable city-building. We are thrilled that Will Allen of Growing Power in the United States will also speak and be available to sign his new book "The Good Food Revolution," along with the authors of other recent urban agriculture books.

Toronto's City Hall is a striking landmark, designed in the 1960s by award winning Finnish architect Viljo Revell. The design is divided into three main parts: the podium, the convex circular council chamber and two office towers of differing heights. The entire City Hall complex has a sculptural quality that makes it the ideal symbol of a growing city.

Take a tour of the Toronto City Hall Green Roof, with Steven Peck, Founder and President of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and Terry McGlade, Consultant at Flynn Canada.  Approximately 3,250 m2 (35,000 square feet) of concrete on the podium roof has been transformed into living vegetation to reduce the building’s environmental impact and for residents and visitors to enjoy all year around. This is the city’s largest publicly accessible green roof! Open to the public.

Location: Toronto City Hall Rotunda, 100 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

Thanks for helping to spread the word. Hope to see you there!



GREAT talk by Mohamed Hage, founding president of Lufa Farms, commercial rooftop greenhouse in Montreal, Quebec

I am so impressed with Lufa Farms, the world's first commercial greenhouse farm, in Montreal, Quebec. This project lifted off just as I was finishing the final draft of Food and the City. I wasn't able to visit it or else it would have been a major chapter in the book! Instead, I was merely able to mention it in the conclusion, but you can see for yourself what an elegant and productive space this is. And remember, Montreal in the winter is COLD, but they feed 2000 Montrealers year-round using this very smart, energy efficient, greenhouse space on the roof of an industrial building. With the success of its first rooftop farm, the company of young, smart, multilingual entrepreneur farmers is putting this forth: "Our Vision is a City of Rooftop Farms."

Here's Mohamed Hage's excellent TED talk from last year about the future of feeding cities using rooftop greenhouse farms.

Via Youtube: Mohamed Hage, an agriculture and technology enthusiast, is the founding president of Lufa Farms, a company that designs, builds and operates rooftop agricultural greenhouses. It was to provide fresh, local and responsible vegetables to montréalais consumers that he created the first commercial rooftop greenhouse in the world in the winter of 2011. Mohamed Hage supervises all of Lufa Farms' daily activities, but is particularly interested in research, planning, construction and operation of the greenhouse environment.
His present goal is to help this new agricultural model be progressively integrated into rooftops across major cities.


Bonus Tracks: Morning News, Tuesday, Sept 7, 2010 edition

So many good articles and news items are appearing on a daily (hourly!) basis that I have trouble keeping up with them. Here are a few that caught my eye from the last 24 hours of facebook, twitter, newsreaders, and favorite website I trawl through.

Young Urban Farmers is an new business out of Toronto which will turn your yard into a veggie-growing paradise. It's not a SPIN farming idea, as you pay for the farming services (starts from $295 CAD to $695) and get to keep and eat the rewards. I follow the Young Urban Farmers on Facebook and they posted this link to an article about their business model on's website.

This will keep you glued to your screen. is a very good website that is currently running a series called "Feeding the City". Here's the link to the series' main page and you can link to the various articles from here.

Russians are mad about home food gardening. From what I gather, mostly Russian veggie plots and fruit trees are peri-urban. It's a tradition for Russians to own Dachas, small plots where they might have a little weekend cabin and a kitchen garden and orchard on the outskirts of the big cities. About 70 million Russians own some sort of allotment garden where they grow food for personal consumption in this way. But it seems that urban gardening is a growing trend in Moscow too now, inspired by the community gardening scenes in Europe and the US. Thanks to the website Prime Time Russia for the article and the video link.

And lastly, I have been researching interesting projects and people in NY as I plan to make a quick research trip there in late Oct. I am definitely going to try to get to this 40,000 square-foot rooftop farm. Thanks to the fab website Food Curated for posting this article on the Brooklyn Grange Farm.


Vancouver Pt. 2: YMCA Intercultural Community Gardens Project

YMCA Intercultural Community Garden, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, July 2010

Prologue: Hospitals and food...don't get me started. If there is one aspect of our culture that we surely need to fix is the lack of actual food available in hospitals. But this post isn't about the fact that most hospitals in Canada have outsourced their cafeteria food services to fast food outlets, so hospital staff and support workers have limited access to healthy food to fuel them on their 12-hour shifts. At least the patients get food cooked from scratch -- albeit bland due to allergy considerations and prepared in industrial parks in industrial batches. Yes, even the morning toast gets trucked to each individual hospital, which is rather insane if you think about it.

This is a good news "hospital food" story that I came accross in Vancouver -- thanks to a connection made by the Gladwellian urban agriculture connector par excellence, Michael Levenston.

During my visit to City Farmer, Michael called up a colleague, David Tracey, whose current project list is more suited to bullet-points than serial commas, so here goes:

  • journalist, blogger and podcaster behind the series Can Urban Agriculture Save the World?;
  • author of Guerilla Gardening: A Manualfesto and The Miracle Tree, an e-book novel that his site describes as "a comedy about a tree that might make wishes come true"..and then adds "Unless it’s really about life and love and race and lies and media and politics and miracles and what more do you want for $5?";
  • yes, he's also a guerilla gardener;
  • coordinator of the Vancouver Community Agriculture Network  ("VCAN" helps low income and other groups start and manage community gardens, and also advocate for policies supporting urban agriculture and provide education and consultation on how to grow food in the city organically);
  • environmental designer with a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of British Columbia;
  • arborist and executive director of Tree City Canada Association, an ecological engagement group that “helps people and trees grow together” in the Vancouver area;
  • and coordinator for the YMCA Intercultural Community Gardens Project on the rooftop of St. Paul's Hospital in a densely populated part of the Vancouver's, and that's what today's blog post will highlight.

The next day, I was standing on the rooftop of a 100-plus year old hosptial in downtown Vancouver, where a new and unique community garden has just started sprouting.

Definitely a jarring scene, but community gardens, as this photo proves, can go anywhere

Funded by the Canadian federal and the British Columbia provincial government, through their Welcoming BC Immigration branch, this is an inner-city community garden that is a model other cities really need to look at. "It's unusual in community gardens as it's not exactly about the food and the ecology, environment, nutrition and all those other things we have community gardens for. This one is an attempt to make Vancouver a more welcoming place," explains Tracey. Vancouver is truly one of Canada's most multicultural cities which is part of its appeal to newcomers and Canadians alike. Tracey informs me that the downtown peninsula in downtown Vancouver -- where the community garden is -- is made up of 40% non-Canadian born Vancouver residents.

And while "everyone mostly gets along in Vancouver," he says, subtler types of racisim obviously exists as it does everywhere. Moreoever, Tracey points to the fact that even in Canada's multicultural cities, there's not always intercultural exchanges among immigrant groups. "So they get along, but they don't really do anything together," says Tracey. "This project is an attempt to see if we can reshape Vancouver into a place that's actually intercultural. And where the different cultures really are working together, and doing things together."

The mandate of the garden is that at least 40% of the participating gardeners must be non-Canadian born (to reflect the demographics of the neighbourhood). In addition, each participant whether Canadian-born or not must go through training in intercultural communications, diversity, anti-racism, and anti-homophobia, because Vancouver's West End has a large gay population.

"Part of my job, getting on this project, was finding the land," says Tracey, and he did, on the rooftop of a 100-year-old hospital of all places. The planning began in January 2010. It was a big step for a hospital. It was a bit unusual for the hospital, for any hospital to say, yes, you can come up here [on our rooftop] and hang out," says Tracey. (The rooftop, however, was obviously at some point designed as a greenspace, as there were already the garden boxes, the irrigation, greenspaces and seating, which was part of a 1970s renovation, making it ideal for a quick start to a community garden.)

Each gardener gets two 7-sq foot boxes; one in the sun and one in partial shade

Currently there are 53 gardeners participatingThe hospital, despite the bureacracy that goes along with such places, saw the community garden as an advantage. Drugs are a problem in this part of downtown Vancouver and it was seen as a way of claiming the space for gardeners and more wholesome, community-minded activities.

Definitely a late 70s design.Tracey also sees this as a way to help new Canadians to get access to community garden plots. "A lot of people in Vancouver now want to grow food in the city. There are between 40 to 50 community gardens in Vancouver. And almost all of them have waiting lists." And the lack of garden plots for those interested are even more concentrated, says Tracey, in the downtown core where Vancouver's legendary land prices play a huge factor.

Moreover, when a notice goes up in a Vancouver neighbourhood announcing a new community garden, a lot of people will turn out, but they tend to be Canadian-born Canadians who understand how the system works. Often they will be white and middle-class people who are more "dialed into the system." The percentage of new Canadians are just not reflective of the actual neighbourhood demographic. "Even if they've been here for 10 or 20 years, they might not really be part of the society in the way they want to be." New Canadians, in other words, may still feel like outsiders or not as entitled. So this project is aimed to target those who may not be at the front of the line when a new community garden starts up. Currently, Tracey is coordinating the translation of the outreach materials in accordance with the five main languages of the current cultural mix of the garden: Mandarin, Spanish, Russian, Farsi and English.David Tracey in conversation with Caiaphers Mulenga, YMCA Youth Peace Network Participant from Zambia about the garden modelImpressive production in just a couple of months in this new 2010 gardenBrocolli!

Interestingly, the YMCA Intercultural Community Gardens Project overlooks the Davie Village Community Garden, an impressive community garden at street level on the corner of Davie and Burrard. Which, when it began in 2008 was more or less gobbled up by the "dialed in" community members. Yup, it's pretty upper class and white.

Prime downtown real estate, but only on loan from the developper who of course gets a huge property tax break for turning this into "greenspace"

View of Davie Village Garden from St. Paul's HospitalThe shiny side of Vancouver!