Urban Agriculture Notes

City Farmer: Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

(with special reference to Africa)


3.3 Local Authorities' Changing Attitudes Toward City Farming

3.3.1 North America

by Luc J.A. Mougeot
© Copyright 1994
International Development Research Centre

Beyond typical backyard gardening, a growing number of North American and European city governments are now encouraging community gardening on city and institutional land. The number of community gardens for nine major North American cities recently totalled 2,475, ranging from 1,000 in New York City down to 30 in Seattle and metro Toronto (Archibald, 1993: 33). The governments of cities like Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, now provide some start-up funding and accept gardens in parks.

In Canada, the City of Toronto's Department of Parks and Recreation currently provides a total of 358 allotment gardens at three locations, including utility lands; metro Toronto has 14 community allotment gardens with 2,000 available allotment plots (total metro Toronto area in allotment gardens: 6.2 ha Eguillor, 1993, as per Cosgrove, 1994a: 6). Two CityHome projects of the Housing Department already have gardens with composters, raised beds and soil supplied by CityHome to tenant growers. The Department of Public Health nutritionists support urban food production and community gardening. They also monitor city school-gardening and composting.

In response to demands by community groups the Toronto Food Policy Council and the Healthy City Project helped to establish an Interdepartmental Working Group on Urban Food Production composed of the Departments of Housing, Planning and Development, City Property, Buildings and Inspection Public Health, Parks and Recreation and Public Works and the Environment. This group assessed capacities and expertise of various city government units and issued recommendations for these to support fully food production in the city. These recommendations, contained in the Garden City report, were passed by City Council in December 1993 (Cosgrove, 1994a: 4). Social housing agencies had sponsored community-garden projects in the mid-1980s (Cosgrove, 1994a: 3). Now a community coalition called Grow T.O. recently obtained permission to plan a new garden in City parkland (Cosgrove, 1994a: 3).

Cosgrove considers Montreal's community garden program "by far the largest, best organized program in Canada" (1994b: 2). When Italian and Portuguese immigrants initiated illegal gardening in North Montreal in the early 1970s, the city attempted to regulate and organize community gardening. The movement, sheltered and championed by The Montreal Botanical Garden, blossomed. A review in 1985 clarified city policy and the Department of Recreation and Community Development is now responsible for the program, coordinating other departments' involvement as well: Habitation & Urban Development, Provisioning & Buildings, Public Works, and Planning and Policy. The gardens are very productive and have long waiting lists; the city provides insurance and horticultural animators; organic methods are mandatory, gardeners must grow at least five different types of vegetables; some of the food produced is donated to community kitchens. The City of Montreal has 75 community garden sites, totalling 6 654 plots (plus 30 other sites elsewhere in metro Montreal, Archibald, 1993: 33).

In contrast with Toronto, urban food production in Montreal is an official and permitted land use, with about one third of "community garden" sites zoned as such and 13 of these 22 sites are located on city parkland (Archibald, 1993: 11).

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revised, June 12,1995

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