In Canadian cities, how urban gardening is at the forefront of adapting to climate change

Jewel Gomes is preparing to spend another growing season in her small Toronto backyard, where she has conducted many agricultural experiments. This summer, she will try to grow crops such as bitter gourd and white strawberry, which are usually not found in Canada.

She said: “I like to try vegetables or plants that are almost impossible to grow here.”

Before moving to Canada in the 1980s, Gomez studied agriculture at a university in the Philippines. Gomes is not bothered by the fact that the climate is far from tropical, and has successfully grown many plants that usually require warm weather, including rice, which she successfully produced in 2019 and exhibited at urban events.

Rice grown by Gomes in Toronto in 2019. (Courtesy of Jewel Gomes)

“They were very excited. They were like touching, they just touched this grain. They couldn’t believe the rice grown in Toronto!” Gomez said of her reaction.

But Gomes’ backyard gardening is more than just a hobby. Urban gardening experts say that growers like Gomez may be at the forefront of helping cities mitigate and adapt to some of the worst effects of climate change.

So much that cities like Toronto and Toronto Montreal Develop urban agricultural strategies to promote agricultural development within its city limits. Mississauga, west of Toronto Currently developing an urban agriculture strategy As one of the pillars of its climate change action plan.

Dianne Zimmerman, Mississauga’s environmental manager, said that in addition to the benefits of locally produced food (including reducing the greenhouse gas emissions caused by long-distance transportation of food and supporting urban biodiversity), urban gardening can also create a sense of inclusiveness. She said the benefits of this epidemic may now be more precious.

Zimmerman said: “When we think of the many benefits of community gardens, it does create a sense of community health and happiness.” “Due to COVID, we have seen a great increase in interest from residents who wish to participate in some of these gardens.”

growing space

In addition to private backyard gardens, urban gardening also includes larger community gardens, distribution areas and building roofs. These roof gardens allow people who do not have a backyard to grow food.Ryerson University Run a rooftop farm An engineering building with less than a quarter of an acre of growth space.

In that small space in the middle of this crowded city, the farm grows about 4,500 kilograms of food every year to provide food for the university community and local chefs.

The farm has also become a laboratory for researchers such as Tamer Almaaitah, a PhD student in civil engineering, who is studying the potential of rooftop agriculture to collect rainwater runoff to reduce flood risk.

Almaaitah said: “In cities, we are very susceptible to heavy rains. In 2013 we have seen Toronto suffer a heavy rain.” “The more rooftop farms we have, the more water we can keep on these rooftops In fact, we are reducing the pressure on the main sewer system.”

In Toronto, By-law requirements Large-scale new buildings to ensure that a certain amount of roofs are green spaces, which means being covered by growing media and vegetation planted on waterproof membranes. But this does not necessarily require the roof to become a food production garden. Although the city now has hundreds of green roofs, there are only a few gardens where crops are grown.

Ryerson’s Almaaitah and other researchers hope to show how high-water-consuming crops, coupled with suitable growth surfaces, can maximize the roof’s ability to absorb rainwater and prevent flooding. The university is currently building a second rooftop farm on top of a residential building to expand food production and research opportunities.

Share seeds and food

Although her backyard is small and unable to produce a lot of food, Gomez has established connections with more communities of food growers who are trying to grow new crops and share seeds. Gomes posted her experiment On her popular Facebook page And has received a seed request from Germany.

Recently, she traded seeds with farmers in the Six Nations of the Big River in southern Ontario. In exchange for rainbow corn seeds, she received the rare blue corn, which she plans to try to plant this season.

Watch | Urban gardeners tried crops that are not normally grown in Canada:

Climate change allows urban gardeners to grow exotic plants, which can help cities prepare for the worst effects of climate warming. 1:59

She said: “It really surprised me because some people appreciate our growth here. They are looking for seeds, and they are reaching out to find seeds.”

Seed exchange helps more people participate in urban gardening, and if given the right space, they can produce a lot of local food.A kind Research in 2010 by York University researchers It is recommended that Toronto have available land and roof space within its boundaries to produce 10% of the fresh vegetables consumed by the city.

The picture shows an urban farm in Vancouver. Experts say that in addition to producing food, these projects can also help cities mitigate some of the effects of climate change. (Darryl Dyke/Canada Press)

Growing large amounts of food in cities is not necessarily a new concept. Karen Landman, professor at the University of Guelph, Research city Horticulture, it is said that agriculture was once part of North American cities, but was gradually separated from urban areas after the First World War.

She said: “This is actually a very old practice.” “There is a lot of land that can be converted into food production. And if it is really needed, we can produce a lot of food. There are other cities in the world, and urban agriculture is owned by many people. The main food source.”

Landman said that experimenters like Gomez can actually influence the larger agricultural industry. OkraFor example, after urban gardeners in Ontario first tried to produce this vegetable, this vegetable is now commercially grown in Canada. Their success prompted a university research center to conduct a more careful study of this process.

Appreciate the green space

Rhonda Teitel-Payne, and Toronto City GrowersThe local advocacy organization said she has noticed that urban residents’ interest in gardening is growing during the pandemic.

She said that people are learning the importance of green spaces closer to home.

She said: “One of the reasons is that people are upset about the food system and whether they are able to get enough food for their families and neighbors.”

“People who have never grown food before are very interested in this. But the second point is that people really understand the importance of nature to our mental health and well-being.”

Rhonda Teitel-Payne, coordinator of the Toronto Urban Growers Association, said that urban gardening has many ecological benefits to the city. (CBC)

Teitel-Payne said she hopes that people will continue to change their perceptions of cities and their role in greening urban spaces.

She said: “I think people think of concrete canyons. They think of roads and pollution. In fact, this is a large part of our experience in the urban environment.”

“So when we create these spaces, we will compensate for it a little bit.”

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