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Fresh City Thinks Toronto Can Grow its Own Veggies

A local farming organization wants to see Toronto growing one million pounds of produce by 2015.

Photo by {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tihanam/3723883267/”}johnferri{/a} from the {a href=”http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/”}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

If you think there aren’t any real farmers in Toronto, Fresh City Farms would like to have a talk with you. It’s an organization bent on fostering a genuine Toronto-based farming community, and it’s now entering its third season growing organic produce in the city.

Fresh City’s latest project aims to get Toronto producing one million pounds of produce each year by 2015, and it has turned to Kickstarter to make that happen.

The Kickstarter campaign is in service of an ambitious goal: to quadruple the number of farmers involved in Fresh City in just four years. According to Ran Goel, the organization’s founder, half of the $20,000 fundraising target would be put towards infrastructure, such as cold storage. The other half would go directly to member farmers growing food in Toronto. Through the campaign, Fresh City aims to have 100 farmers in Toronto making a living off of farming by 2015, a feat Goel hopes to accomplish by providing member farmers with a starter plot at Fresh City’s home base, along with possible plots in other locations around the city, and access to infrastructure like greenhouse space.

Fresh City started with just six member farmers in 2011, and now there are two dozen on board for 2013. The organization operates a main farm at Downsview Park and also grows produce at member farms across the city. All the farms use certified organic seeds and growing materials, and farmers are trained in organic growing techniques. Torontonians can eat produce grown by Fresh City by signing up for weekly deliveries.

Goel said that Fresh City chose to raise funds through Kickstarter because it provides an opportunity to get the word out about the project. The organization put together a selection of perks for those who fund the project campaign (it runs until just after midnight on Saturday, February 23, and it has already exceeded the $20,000 target). The donor rewards run the gamut from a digital copy of a Fresh City cookbook, to Fresh Box deliveries, dinner at the Farmhouse Tavern, and even a custom Yiddish ballad written by Goel’s grandmother. (Only one lucky backer will receive that last prize.)

Farming in Toronto, with Ontario’s Greenbelt so close by, may seem counterproductive to some, but Goel believes that urban farming has a real future. “Farming organically in the city means less chemicals and less energy used,” he explained. “That means cleaner rivers, lakes, oceans, soil, and air. It means less carbon emissions and more biodiversity.” If you’re living in an urban environment, it’s hard to get more local than food grown in your own city, especially if you don’t have the space to grow it on your own property.

Most importantly, Goel said, Fresh City’s project gives Torontonians valuable, visceral, food-based experiences. “Be it by hosting school groups for tours, leading small business volunteer work days, mentoring at-risk youth interns, speaking at various events, or just sharing our story with farmers’ market patrons,” Goel said, “we are bringing people closer to good food.”

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