urban agriculture, green balconies

The effects of the climate crisis are being seen everywhere in the world. From flooding in Germany, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, to fires in Russia, India, Argentina, Australia, the US, Turkey, and Canada. Our supply chains are being interrupted and our farmable land is unstable.

But I’m really not here to be all doom and gloom. One of the best ways we can build up a city’s resiliency is through urban agriculture. But why is growing our own food in the city so important?

access to fresh food

The smallest amount of space you need to start growing your own food is a take-out container on a window sill. No really.

You can grow microgreens, lettuce, herbs, and edible flowers all in the city, most even in an apartment. Over 50% of our world population lives in cities, and to help feed everyone with the fresh produce that encourages good health, the need to start supplying people with more ways to access real fresh food. Whether that’s balcony growing or a home hydroponics system, there are tons of growing solutions for every space.

The pandemic had a lot of people talking about the security of supply chains, and a lot of us experienced massive interruptions to things we were used to being able to access. But I’ve been in countries undergoing Civil Unrest, and often people will block food and resources from reaching cities. But trying to starve the people at the top of the food chain usually means their servants just go more hungry.

If everyone had the ability to produce their own food in even a small amount, it empowers them to be more self-sufficient, and connect with our earth in ways that aren’t regularly encouraged anymore. Learning how to build soil, and thinking about the entire lifecycle of the products we consume goes hand in hand.

When we think about sustainable urban development, liveable cities, and quality of life, accessing fresh and nutritious food is central. If everyone has a little food on their balcony, porch, lawn, or rooftop, they can at least snack before a trek to the grocery store. When everyone in an apartment has thriving gardens, it can reduce the ambient temperature of the building, and can improve temperatures in the surrounding streets as well.

urban agriculture can grow a lot of food

kohlrabi vegetable garden, examples of urban agriculture

If you want to hear a US professor go through the workshops with years of his students at Columbia, working out the math on how to feed people in his Urban Agriculture Podcast. I would highly recommend listing to this if you’re thinking about joining this industry.

While it is estimated that currently in developed countries, cities are only producing somewhere near 5% of their food, cities in developing countries are producing up to 90% of their fresh vegetables and 40% of their eggs through urban agriculture.

Why is urban agriculture in developing cities so much more productive? For a wide range of reasons. Firstly, in developed cities, the land is of higher value, and generally, there are large start-up costs associated with Urban Agriculture. But, in developing cities, people need to be more resourceful and can battle economic oppression by growing some of their own food and selling extra at markets.

Canada – World War 2

Canada was known for feeding the army on the other side of the ocean. And to help Canadians deal with rations, the government introduced the idea of the Victory Garden for people in the cities. At their peak production in 1944, an estimated 209,200 gardens produced 57,000 tonnes of vegetables!

Stecher-Traung Lithograph Corporation, 1939-45

Agriculture Created Cities

The first long-term settlements developed around starting to grow our own food. Growing our food fresh allows us to choose the best produce for ourselves, and helps us create a more bio-diverse landscape in the city.

urban agriculture is incredible for the enviroment

What is carbon sequestration

Plants are carbon-based life forms. When we grow them, they capture carbon in the air and hold it in their roots and growth. And, home gardeners are more likely to compost. Decaying plant matter in garbage creates methane, which is not so good for the planet.

How much carbon can you actually capture? It varies on how much you are planting, and what you are in turn using the plants for. If you aren’t thinking about the whole lifecycle of the carbon sequestration system, there may be leaks.


I have had bumblebees in my cucumbers every sunny day this summer. And I’m only growing 2 varieties and some strawberries. If my neighbours were growing as well, the biodiversity on my street would be increased 10 fold.

types of urban agriculture

Okay so, now that I’ve given you all this great information, where do you begin? There are so many ways to get involved, but as every grower would say, start small and add more plants as your gardens are healthy.

Community Gardens

Each community garden will be different, and if you cant find one near you, consider starting your own. In Toronto, you can start through the city website here.

Balcony/Rooftop Gardens

There are so many vegetables that thrive in containers. My strawberries this year produced from May right until September. Read more here.

Borrow a Backyard

It pains me when I see underutilized space in the city. Destitute lawns that haven’t had any compost or nutrients added for decades becoming dust patches.

The city will slap you with a pretty fine if you just start planting willy nilly. Even if you’re doing good work and adding native plants. The gardening union gets serious about that stuff. Try borrowing a backyard from a neighbour instead.


If you’re limited to a very small space for growing, hydroponic systems are probably the way to go. Because you can build vertical systems, you can install them on any wall and augment growing with lights. hydroponics also controls water runoff and absorbs more nutrients, making the system about 80% more efficient than traditional ag.