Business, Economics and Jobs

Urban farming grows in Ottawa


Urban farming in New York. (Image by Flickr user greensudbury (CC: by-sa))

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A movement of urban farmers is taking root in among Ottawa's 1.5 million residents. Kirsten Brouse, who has turned her 6th-floor apartment into a kind of urban greenhouse, believes it could change the way people think about food. In an interview with "The World," Brouse said, "It's gonna be like local on a whole different scale."

Ottawa residents with space for yards have been joining the movement, too, by allowing entrepreneurs to convert their lawns into productive plots for farming. One resident explained the benefits of the deal: "It means less mowing, and of course we get vegetables every week." Crops are also sold at local markets and to consumers in the form of farm shares.

Urban farming is "the future of our food system," according to Will Allen, CEO of the Milwaukee-based organization Growing Power. In 2008, Allen won a Macarthur grant for his work on urban farming and teaching children about growing food. He told the Macarthur Foundation:

If we want healthy local food, our new generation of farmers is not going to come from rural communities. They're not going to come from traditional farm families, because those things don't exist in our system anymore. These new farmers are going to come from folks who live in the city.

There are some unique challenges to farming in the city. "The World" reports that farmers must grow up, instead of out, due to space constraints. And farming is often more intensive, as new crops are planted directly after the last one is harvested.

Most urban farmers aren't expecting to make a lot of money for their toil, but the benefits extend deeper than simple profit. And for people who want to know more about their food, having a farm next door could provide the kind of connection and information they've been looking for.