Urban Farming for Fun and Profit

In the urban centre of Toronto, Sarah Nixon makes a living by growing flowers in other people’s yards and then selling the plants. She is part of a growing trend among sustainable urbanities who are farming in the city.

Nixon’s farm isn’t out near Milton or Orillia. It’s on Indian Rd. and Marion St. – just a few blocks from Roncesvalles in the city’s west end. She grows flowers in back and front yards around Parkdale and then sells them for weddings, office receptions and, perhaps this season, to one Ossington Ave. florist.

What do the landowners get in return?

“They get a free flower garden without lifting a finger,” says Nixon with a smile.

Nixon is part of the new wave of farming, called SPIN – small plot intensive farming – which is growing in cities across North America. Riding on the crest of the local food wave, SPIN is cashing in on a new eager market.

There are some surprising benefits to growing crops in the city, says the movement’s leader, Wally Satzewich.

You can’t turn a tractor in a tiny backyard, so there are fewer expensive start-up investments, for one. Then, there’s the city’s asphalt, which absorbs the sun’s heat and makes us all sweat more on hot summer nights. But, for farmers, it means a longer growing season in the spring and fall. And there is the garden hose.

“All I have to do is turn on the water faucet in the house and there is irrigation,” says Satzewich, who moved from his 20-acre farm outside Saskatoon into the city 10 years ago. “If I had to go back to getting my tractor to a river bank and getting the pump going … When you’ve learned the hard way out in the country you really appreciate the benefits of the city.”

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