Sustainable and local food systems improve food security, stimulate economic opportunity in the area, reduce our ecological footprint, and provide a cultural community for people to grow food together — and it’s happening on TRCA lands.
Farming TRCA Lands
Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) is the largest land owner in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with roughly 15,000 hectares, much of which was expropriated in the 1950s and 1960s for flood and erosion control purposes.
For decades TRCA has leased some of its land to farmers, but recently we have introduced new, diverse farming models and crops to encourage food to be grown closer to city regions. Currently, TRCA owns and manages approximately 400 hectares in its agricultural land inventory.
In 2008, TRCA began to offer multi-year leases and made farming a greater priority for TRCA land with the adoption of its Sustainable Near-Urban Agriculture Policy. This policy protects agricultural land and encourages sustainable communities by producing local food for the Toronto region. In partnership with farm related community organizations, TRCA has developed four near-urban farm projects. These farm projects provide accessible fresh and local food, a sense of community, economic opportunities, and learning facilities – all with reduced environmental impacts.
Objectives of sustainable near-urban agriculture for TRCA lands include:
- Promote social equity and food security in communities by providing opportunities for increased accessibility to fresh, healthy and local food;
- Provide opportunities for community economic development by helping to reduce the number of imports and by creating jobs and meaningful work for the local produce;
- Reduce our ecological footprint by providing local food, and reducing food miles and greenhouse gas emissions related to food transportation (helps to reduce our impact on climate change);
- Provide a space for celebrating the cultural diversity of communities by growing a diverse range of crops;
- Provide a positive influence on adjacent natural heritage; and
- Complement TRCA’s Vision for The Living City by participating in growing local foods that contribute to sustainable communities.
Interested in Farming? TRCA currently has 405 hectares of agriculture land available. To see what land is available and for more information, contact Sonia Dhir by email at email@example.com.
Black Creek Community Farm
Black Creek Community Farm (BCCF) is a 3.2 hectare site located on TRCA land in the Jane and Finch community, Toronto.
The farm project is a partnership between TRCA and Everdale, a farm-based charity providing hands-on, solution-based food and farming education to youth and aspiring new farmers. Other partners include: FoodShare, a charity whose goal is “Good, Healthy Food for All”; Afri-Can Food Basket, a charity engaging the community in the garden for food security; and Fresh City Farms, a local food business harnessing the power of social enterprise.
This farm is supported and guided by a number of other key organizations: York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security, and the World Crops Project.
These organizations have come together to launch this ground-breaking, community urban farm which is a model for other cities around the world. The farm is staffed and supported by community residents and the harvests of fresh, healthy food feeds the local community. It is an intergenerational place of learning and training where youth reconnect to the story of their food.
BCCF also supplies produce to Black Creek Pioneer Village Food Services less than one kilometre away. Black Creek Pioneer Village offers a variety of educational programming for all ages.
McVean Start Up Farm
The McVean Start Up Farm began in 2008 as a project partnership between Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and FarmStart, with the objective of encouraging and assisting new farmers. The farm is located on Brampton’s historic McVean property, located within the Claireville Conservation Area. This 19 hectare facility is owned by TRCA and is leased to FarmStart under a long term lease agreement, with approximately 20 new farmers being trained and supported each year. Participant farmers have access to land, shared infrastructure and water. The land is certified organic. The McVean Farm provides the opportunity for new farmers from non-farming backgrounds, new Canadians and second career farmers to establish their farm enterprises that will primarily serve local communities and markets.
In addition to providing access to farmland close to the city, McVean Farm also provides resources such as:
Shared Facilities and Equipment: Irrigation, equipment, storage and washing facilities are available to participants. Farmers can access these as needed and pay a rental fee for the usage. This helps farmers to develop and run their farm businesses without the often prohibitive upfront investment in land, infrastructure and equipment.
Marketing: Assistance is available in conducting or accessing market research for specific crops and livestock. Participants are also encouraged to consider value added measures to enhance income from their crops.
Horticultural Inputs: FarmStart assists participants in sourcing planting materials and custom work as required by individual farm operations.
Mentorship and Training: Mentoring and training are an important part of FarmStart’s programs. Business planning and management courses are conducted on a regular basis, and participants are referred to a wide range of training courses and mentorship opportunities offered by partner organizations such as the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Farmers Growing Farmers, and others. The Farm Manager and Program Manager act as mentors and provide some technical and practical support to participants on site as required.
Garden Plots at McVean
Not ready to be a farmer, but looking for access to garden plots to grow food for yourself? McVean Farm also has garden plots that community members can rent. Plots are 1000 square feet in area, more than enough to grow all of the food needed for you, your family and friends! For an annual fee, you get a tilled plot that is ready to be worked and access to water.
Heritage at McVean
In 2005, the City of Brampton designated the McVean property as a “Category A” heritage resource. The McVean property is Brampton’s oldest farm and was once part of the wheat farm owned by early settler Alexander McVean. The double English Wheat Barn that McVean and his family built in the 1840s still stands today on its original foundation. This style of barn is very rare. The barn was built specifically for the processing of wheat using “winnowing”, an ancient method of using the wind to separate the wheat kernel from the chaff. Also still standing is a grist and saw mill that McVean built on a branch of the Humber River that ran through his property.
Albion Hills Community Farm
The Albion Hills Community Farm launched in 2011 in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The 27 hectare farming operation is located in the Town of Caledon, 40 minutes north of Toronto within the Albion Hills Conservation Area (Ontario’s oldest conservation area). Throughout the year, Albion Hills Community Farm provides education programs, spaces for community gardens, and grows food for local markets and institutions. The Albion Hills Community Farm is a place where students, teachers, farmers, community groups and families come together to learn about local food and farming and to foster sustainable lifestyle choices that serve the needs of growing near-urban communities and protects local green space and ecosystems.
Community Gardens at Albion Hills
The community gardens at Albion Hills provide spaces for individuals and organization to grow their own food. Community gardens have many benefits, including fostering a sense of community and stewardship, bringing together people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, health benefits such as encouraging outdoor physical activity and increasing access to healthy, local food, as well as the personal satisfaction of learning to plant, tend and harvest your own food.
The community gardens at Albion Hills provide spaces for individuals and organizations to organically grow their own food. Apply today and reserve a space! http://www.albionhillscommunityfarm.org/our-programs/community-gardens/
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at Albion Hills Community Farm
Joining a CSA is a sure way to secure healthy, organic food. The CSA at Albion Hills Community Farm offers a 15 week CSA service where customers commit to buying a weekly share (box of vegetables) from June to October. As a CSA member you will receive high quality, organically grown vegetables delivered to convenient locations near Caledon, Bolton and Orangeville.
For information on subscribing to the CSA program at Albion Hills Community Farm, please visit: www.albionhillscommunityfarm.org/our-programs/local-food-production/csa-program
Are you interested in learning more about the Albion Hills Community Farm? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Living City Farm
The Living City Farm, a 4.8 hectare farm located at the Kortright Centre in Vaughan, was founded in 2011. Over 100 varieties of vegetables and fruits are produced using efficient farming models and technology. This site is also used as a learning centre for youth, adults, and new farmers, and offers learning programs about local food, environmental stewardship and healthy eating. The yields are sold directly to community members via farmers markets.
The Living City Farm provides an excellent opportunity for TRCA to demonstrate its commitment to growing local food and to realize its sustainable near-urban agriculture vision. The farm is an attractive location for a sustainable near-urban agriculture enterprise due to the significant number of visitors each year at Kortright. The centre hosts 100,000 visitors annually and offers over 50 environmental education programs for schools, 30 sustainable technology workshops for the public, trades and professionals, and special functions such as weddings and business meetings.
See more about The Living City Farm through an online virtual tour of The Living City Campus.
Where can I find produce from TRCA Farms?
Black Creek Community Farm
- Brampton Farmers’ Market
- Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market
- Sorauren: http://westendfood.coop/farmers-market
- Woodbridge Village Farmers’ Market
- Farm gate sales
The Living City Farm
For an up-to-date list of markets served in your area and their associated hours of operation, please contact the appropriate farm or market directly.
- Black Creek Community Farm Harvest Share Program
- The Albion Hills Community Farm’s CSA Program has drop off locations in Palgrave, Bolton, and Brampton.
The following businesses and institutions use TRCA farm produce:
- Wanigans, Brampton
- Black Creek Pioneer Village
- Caledon Hills Coffee Company, Caledon East
- Town of Caledon Cafeteria, Caledon East
- Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
- Etobicoke Outdoor Education Centre
Why buy local?
To reduce your carbon footprint:
Local food has a shorter journey from the ground to your table which means less fewer fossil fuels related greenhouse gases are being released to ship the food to markets.
To support your community:
Buying local food also ensures jobs for urban farmers in your community. Many urban farmers offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs where customers pay a subscription to receive weekly baskets of fresh farm produce for a season.
Local food is fresher and tastier! TRCA farms often grow heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables that aren’t available in grocery stores. Heirloom produce can add some new and interesting flavours to your cooking, and these different fruit and vegetable varieties help build security into our food system by diversifying the number of crops we grow.
To improve stormwater management:
Farms located in urban areas provide much-needed benefits to urban stormwater management; rain falling in an urban area often ends up in rivers and storm sewers, but farmland can act as a sink for excess water, reducing the potential for localized flooding.
The growth of consumer demand for organically produced, artisanal and locally grown foods has resulted in viable spaces for new entrants and small- to mid-scale farm businesses who are able to be more flexible, responsive and transparent than their larger agri-business counterparts.