Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Manifestations Of Community Based Agriculture In The Urban Landscape
A Canadian Compendium And Four Winnipeg Case Studies

By Emma Victoria Hall
A practicum submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies of the University of Manitoba in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture

A 12 MB PDF of the complete paper can be found here.

On this web page we have included only the Abstract, Table of Contents, Case Studies and Conclusions - Recommendations.


This practicum is comprised of research into Canadian community-based urban agricultural practices and four case studies of projects in the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Through the use of a literature review to investigate relevant urban agricultural issues it was established that community based urban agriculture is a large and complex topic that can be analyzed through four general characteristics to determine its manifestation in the landscape. These four characteristics - physical, economic, social and ecological - illustrate the far-reaching implications of the practice of urban agriculture and its relevance to the creation of sustainable cities.

Four case studies were chosen to investigate different forms of urban agriculture - rooftop gardens, greenhouse/hydroponics, allotment gardens and community gardens. These four case studies were then examined to test urban agricultural theory and determine whether general assumptions about the theory can be made in reference to Winnipeg.

Despite proximity to prime agricultural land and relatively high employment statistics, urban agriculture in Winnipeg is practiced; primarily for social rather than economic reasons. The social characteristics of the agriculture - particularly community pride and education - fueled much of the activity. There was direct economic benefit due to subsidy of domestic nutrition, sales and employment in three of the four case studies. There was evidence of a green philosophy demonstrated by all four of the studies with pesticide-free practices, water conservation and organic waste management. The greenhouse/hydroponics and the community garden case studies had the most attributes of the characteristics determined to be the perimeters of the research, indicating success due to flexible programming directed at the needs of the participants. The physical manifestation of urban agriculture was an element of the activity, but was viewed as the most indirect benefit of reasons to grow food in the city. Although this research is relevant to community organizations, government and professionals, it indicated that if the profession of landscape architecture in particular viewed the incorporation of urban agricultural issues as an important design tool, landscape architects could provide a deep and meaningful way to create sustainable landscapes that employ and feed people, promote neighbourhood pride, conserve resources and still be beautiful.

Table Of Contents

Table Of Contents
List Of Figures
Topic Statement

Chapter One Urban Agricultural Literature Review And Background To Study

1.2.1 Community Gardening In Canada
1.2.2 Railway Gardens
1.2.3 School Gardens
1.2.4 Victory Gardens
1.2.5 Counter-Culture Movement
1.2.6 Modern Community Gardens/Allotment Gardens
1.4.1 The Ecological Footprint
1.6.1 The Biodynamic/French Intensive Method
1.6.2 Permaculture
1.6.3 The Organic Movement
1.6.4 No Till/Natural Farming
1.6.5 Biomimicry
1.6.6 The Land Institute


2.1.1 Defining Boundaries And Type of Urban Agricultural Zone
2.1.2 Urban Agricultural Land Use
2.1.3 Roadsides And Rights-Of-Way Regional Allotment Gardens
2.1.4 Vacant Lots Community Gardens
2.1.5 Rooftop Gardens
2.1.6 Urban Forestry
2.1.7 Urban Livestock
2.1.8 Greenhouse Agriculture Hydroponics
2.1.9 Residential Property
2.2.1 Economic Costs Of Urban Agriculture
2.2.2 Economic Benefits of Urban Agriculture Local Income Generation
2.2.3 Food Security Community Kitchens Farmers' Markets Food Policy Organizations Food Co-Ops and Buying Clubs Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
2.3.1 Characteristics Of Urban Agriculturists
2.3.2 Provision Of Safe And Fresh Food
2.3.3 Educational Opportunities
2.3.4 Promotion of Healthy Activity
2.3.5 Community Benefits
2.3.6 Affordable Urban Renewal
2.3.7 Building Stronger Communities
2.3.8 Charitable Affiliations
2.3.9 Promotion Of Civic Activity
2.3.10 Organization Of Social Conduct In Urban Agricultural Initiatives
2.4.1 Urban Ecological Process
2.4.2 Potential Hazards And Poor Urban Agricultural Practices
2.4.3 Heavy Metal Contamination In Soils And Irrigation Waters
2.4.4 Heavy Metal Testing Programs
2.4.5 Lead Poisoning
2.4.6 Soil Management
2.4.7 Waste Management
2.4.8 Vermiculture And Composting
2.4.9 Mulch
2.4.10 Water Conservation
2.4.11 Seed Saving
2.4.12 Urban Heat Islands
2.5.1 Physical
2.5.2 Economic
2.5.3 Social
2.5.4 Ecological


3.1 ROOFTOP GARDEN (Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources)
3.1.1 Rooftop Gardens In Winnipeg
3.1.2 Introduction/History Of CIER
3.1.3 Physical Manifestations Of Case Study
3.1.4 Economic Manifestations Of Case Study
3.1.5 Social Manifestations Of Case Study
3.1.6 Ecological Manifestations Of Case Study
3.1.7 Conclusions
3.2 GREENHOUSE/HYDROPONICS (Growing Prospects Incorporated)
3.2.1 Greenhouse/Hydroponics In Winnipeg
3.2.2 Introduction/History Of GPI
3.2.3 Physical Manifestations Of Case Study
3.2.4 Economic Manifestations Of Case Study
3.2.5 Social Manifestations Of Case Study
3.2.6 Ecological Manifestations Of Case Study
3.2.7 Conclusions
3.3 ALLOTMENT GARDENS (Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens)
3.3.1 Allotment Gardens in Winnipeg
3.3.2 Introduction/History of MHAG
3.3.3 Physical Manifestations Of Case Study
3.3.4 Economic Manifestations Of Case Study
3.3.5 Social Manifestations Of Case Study
3.3.6 Ecological Manifestations Of Case Study
3.3.7 Conclusions
3.4 COMMUNITY GARDENS (West Broadway Gardening Group)
3.4.1 Community Gardens in Winnipeg
3.4.2 Introduction/History of WBGG
3.4.4 Economic Manifestations Of Case Study
3.4.5 Social Manifestations Of Case Study
3.4.6 Ecological Manifestations Of Case Study
3.4.7 Conclusions





A. Selected Contacts/Resources
Re: Urban Agricultural Organizations And Food Security Across Canada
B. Glossary
C. Ecological Footprints of Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax
D. Preliminary Questions for Case Studies
E. City Of Winnipeg's Gardening Policies, Manitoba Hydro Allotment Contract
West Broadway Gardening Group Contract, Growing Prospects Information


Chapters One and Two establish a background section derived from current urban agricultural literature and research. As described in the method section, four case studies in Winnipeg, Manitoba were explored by the author to provide practical examples of the preceding urban agricultural theory. With the exception of general discussion in the literature review, this study does not discuss residential, commercial peri-urban operations, urban livestock keeping, urban forestry or aquaculture. The case studies chosen illustrate four different forms of urban agriculture - a rooftop garden, a greenhouse/hydroponics system, an allotment garden and a community garden. Each study is prefaced with current Winnipeg initiatives of the given form of urban agriculture and then proceeds to describe the case study and how it practices urban agriculture but the case studies as a whole are meant to be reflective of how urban agriculture is manifest in the landscape based on four characteristics - physical, economic, social and ecological - and whether practices in Winnipeg are relevant to the preceding theory investigated in the literature review.

The particular case study projects were selected for exploration because they:

Information for the case studies was obtained principally through personal interviews with the co-ordinators of the particular urban agricultural activity in question and collection of supplemental published information, links to relevant websites and particular documentation used by the given organization. Interviewees were chosen on the grounds of their expertise and their role in the particular activity. The questions asked of the interviewees were intended to elicit information pertinent to the boundaries established as general characteristics of urban agriculture - physical, economic, social and ecological - on a case by case basis.

Analysis of the four case studies was based on the organization, scale of the enterprise and the four general characteristics. Conclusions and comparisons were drawn from this data and a table that was created to determine issue-relevant meanings and commonalities for further perspective on the issue of urban agriculture and its potential to create sustainable cities.


Due most likely to the relative recent renaissance in Canada of rooftop gardens and probably due to climatic restrictions there are a limited number of rooftop gardens in Winnipeg. The majority service seniors' homes such as the Lion's Manor on Sherbrook Avenue and a second senior's apartment complex on Stradbrook Avenue which have only raised beds planted with ornamental species. At a marsh just north of Winnipeg is the headquarters of Ducks Unlimited which maintains a variety of grasses covering a sod laden roof to camouflage the building and provide nesting habitat.

Many rooftop gardens are planned for development in the next couple of years in downtown Winnipeg. For example, Villa Cabrini, another home for the aged, plans to have a grand opening for their rooftop garden in August 2001. The wait is due in part to zoning regulations and permission from the City to begin construction. Vegetables will be selected according to participants' interest. It is anticipated that there will be a greenhouse for propagation. Many of the planters will be at raised levels because of some seniors' limited mobility. Lion's Place, another example of a downtown senior's home, is planning a roof top garden for ornamental species only.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has a rooftop garden used in conjunction with their upstairs restaurant for special functions such as weddings, an annual series of jazz concerts and art installations. Located in downtown Winnipeg the Centennial Library has a ground-level rooftop garden above a parking garage. It is a beautiful and popular spot for commuters and people visiting the site on their breaks from neighbouring businesses. Unfortunately there are plans to double the size of the existing library and the garden has been determined to be the area of construction.

Situated at Portage Avenue and Main street, Winnipeg's Lombard Hotel is developing a plan for a herb and edible flower garden on their roof. Located at 705 Broadway Avenue, Nine Circles Community Health Care/AIDS Shelter Coalition of Manitoba is in the planning stages of a large undertaking for a roof top garden to integrate sustainable community development with organic food production, a wholesale buying club and community kitchens.

In a 1995 report entitled "Homesteading on the Concrete Prairie" University of Manitoba City Planning students under the direction of Professor Mary Ellen Tyler made recommendations for a rooftop garden to be part of a sustainable housing development in what is known as the Princess Block in Winnipeg's Exchange District. The project was not realized.

Despite the fact that the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) is only in the planning and developmental stages of a rooftop garden, the organization's initiative was selected to be highlighted for the rooftop garden case study for several reasons. CIER demonstrates how this form of urban agriculture has great potential to revitalize a historic building. It also demonstrates how ecological benefits are gained by implementing rooftop gardens and retrofitting existing structures to meet federal, provincial and city regulations. Information for this case study was obtained through a personal interview with Shaunna Morgan, research assistant and instructor (07.06.2000).

3.1.1 Introduction/History of Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER)

In Winnipeg's historic Exchange District businesses partner with civic and provincial organizations to retrofit 20th century warehouses; many of which are derelict and challenge current zoning and safety regulations. The Kay Building at 245 McDermot Avenue is an example of how these old buildings are being renovated to bring 21st century design and sustainability issues into an early 20th century area. The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources is one such business and research body that has a mandate for green policy - particularly in regards to their office environment. The various businesses that rise above the four story Kay Building will benefit visually from the garden. This visibility within the community should help CIER's mandate to promote rooftop gardens and their multitude of benefits. In order to understand the issues that surround the implementation of a rooftop garden at the Kay Building one must consider the history of the building and a history of CIER, its anchor tenant.

Now known as the Kay Building and given heritage status of grade II in 1998, the Stovel Building was designed by architect Hugh McCowan of Winnipeg and built in 1893. Stovel Co., established in 1889, was a Winnipeg-based printing enterprise that gained a regional reputation for quality and technically innovative production. A 1916 fire at that location forced the Stovels to build a new facility on Bannatyne Avenue. With the post-fire reconstruction of 245 McDermot the Stovels leased the building to the T. Eaton Co. and later to various suppliers. The property was sold in 1940 to Kay's Ltd. which amalgamated with a Winnipeg company in 1995 and vacated the premises. Shortly thereafter a multi-level nightclub operated in the majority of the building until Richard Walls of Winnipeg-based ADI Designworks purchased the property in 1998. As the main tenant on the third and fourth floors (11,000 square feet), CIER played a very important role in the most recent renovation.

The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources is a national First Nations environmental corporation created and directed by a national Board of First Nations' leaders. Founded in 1994 it received federal non-profit corporate status in July 1995. CIER maintains its head office at Brokenhead First Nation with a regional office located in Winnipeg. Between 1994 and 1999 CIER was located at the Forks National Historic Site. CIER was created for the express purpose of establishing and implementing a national centre for excellence in environmental capacity-building initiatives for First Nations - to address issues of environmental degradation in their communities and possess the necessary skills to record, interpret, monitor, problem-solve and engage in an ongoing process of control and protection of their lands and resources through post-secondary environmental education, policy development and technical consulting services. CIER operates from the philosophical foundation that long-term solutions to environmental issues facing First Nations and their territories require the creation of a unique operating paradigm that validates and includes indigenous and western knowledge of environmental issues in a pursuit to attain balance between the Earth and its peoples and represent an understanding and interconnectedness between all of aspects of life and nature.

3.1.2 Physical Manifestations Of The Case Study

The Kay Building is an integral part of a streetscape that is lined between Albert and Adelaide Streets with turn of the (20th) century warehouse-office buildings and hotels in Winnipeg's historic Exchange District. The Stovel Block was designed in the Romanesque Revival style. Its three finished (east, south and west) elevations exhibit textured detailing, a curved corner bay, brick pilasters and large windows placed in round and segmental arches. Other ornamentation is provided by brick string courses, stone lug sills, patterned brick window heads with keystones, a corbelled and arcaded brick cornice and large pilaster caps. The surrounds of the now-altered corner entrance include a stylized rusticated stone arch and columns (CIER website, 2000).

This four-story building has a raised stone foundation, exterior load-bearing brick walls and an internal frame of square wooden posts and beams. Its brick finish has been painted. Initially two stories high in 1900, the building was extended higher two more levels and westward along McDermot Avenue by approximately seventy feet.

In recent times work has been done to upgrade basic electrical, plumbing, heating and fire safety systems predominantly in the basement and the main and second floors. Although the building's foundation is sound, the roof, exterior walls, parapet, windows and architectural elements have mostly been repaired or replaced. Having been 60% vacant for a number of years the interior has been substantially retrofitted and renovated.

In keeping with their green policies and their mandate of creating an environmentally friendly office, CIER plans to install a garden on the roof of the Kay Building to cultivate plants traditionally used by indigenous people and establish a functioning ecosystem within the urban environment.

The roof structure is 19.13 x 29.60 m (566 m2). The estimated live load capacity of the roof is seventy pounds per square foot (psf). The minimum live load capacity for the building is 36 psf. Live load capacity required by the City of Winnipeg is 32 psf. (Morgan, 2000: 2). With succulent plant species the live load capacity of the roof would need to be 82 lb. psf.

The construction and development of CIER's rooftop garden project will be phased in over the next several years. Construction considerations for such an undertaking are collectively considerable. CIER is investigating the myriad engineering and technical needs of a rooftop garden. At the beginning of June, 2000 a local engineering firm examined the Kay building's structural integrity and its capacity for a rooftop garden. Their recommendation was that the roof loading capacity could be improved per square foot by transferring weight to the building's interior beams.

Improved access is mandatory. The engineers determined that the current roof access does not meet fire code. Therefore the elevator shaft may have to be heightened for immediate and barrier-free access and the stairs have to be extended. In addition two proper exterior exits are necessary - a fire escape is not concerned appropriate as the secondary exit.

Accessibility issues include additional structures to deal with liability concerns such as guardrails and appropriate lighting. If the roof was going to be accessed for maintenance purposes only there would be no necessary regulations for stairs, guardrails or other safety features.

The roof will need a cover system with layers consisting of a waterproofing membrane, a root repellent membrane, a drainage layer and a landscape or filter cloth to contain roots and soil.

Other considerations for a successful implementation of a rooftop garden are water accessibility, solar exposure, wind protection, a tool storage area, waste disposal and some way to prevent plant roots freezing in the winter.

Design elements for the proposed rooftop garden include a teaching garden for educational experiments and demonstrations, a greenhouse for inclement weather, vertical elements such as trellises and wall gardens to block visual access to existing air conditioning units, a water element such as a pond, stream or fountain, a public gathering place, a quiet meditative area and a ceremonial/spiritual area. A spiritual garden will be devoted to traditional plants used in First Nations ceremonies. The sacred space may contain a design element to encourage a three stage spiritual journey through a type of labyrinth (Morgan, 2000). All design elements will emphasize curves in keeping with current CIER office design.

Specialized low weight growing mediums need to be investigated, as do climate and weight-appropriate plants. When considering plants for the rooftop garden the most important consideration is whether the plants can withstand the large amount of heat and light from constant solar exposure. The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources wants to use tall species to surround and enclose the water element so that the vegetation has the potential to absorb and help limit evapouration and transpiration. Traditional Native plants such as tobacco, sweetgrass and sage for ceremonial use and harvest will be emphasized. Possible food crops could be the 'three sisters' - corn, beans and squash. Plants will be herbicide and pesticide free.

Currently there is not proposed plan or existing sketches to show what the roof may look like upon completion. The only visual information that can be gathered at this time is in regards to design elements that CIER is considering for the rooftop garden but they exist in theory only. The roof will not be visible from the street level; because of its heritage building designation the garden cannot compromise the silhouette of the building. The rooftop garden will emerge as a landscape within Winnipeg when viewed from local multi-level highrises.

3.1.3 Economic Manifestations Of The Case Study

The costs of alterations/modifications of the existing structure and green roof technology installation are not yet known. Apart from a feasibility study, the consulting engineering firm made some costing analyses which have yet to be released.

The purpose of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources' rooftop garden is not intended to be for income generation. It is for pleasure, socializing and meditation for CIER staff, students and partnering businesses such as Growing Prospects Inc. As of June, 2000 it seems that no products from the roof are going to be marketed. The only income generation for CIER that may be connected with the rooftop garden is the potential for bottling and marketing liquid fertilizer from the composting toilets obtained from the liquid overflow waste section of the composting toilets.

As detailed by the description of rooftop gardens in the literature review, the installation and maintenance of rooftop gardens generates jobs for many sectors of the green roof industry from production of materials to installation and maintenance. Rooftop garden related services and materials, preferable First Nation, will be purchased locally whenever possible. It is part of CIER's mandate to promote rooftop gardens in Winnipeg, thereby stimulating the green roof business.

3.1.4 Social Manifestations Of The Case Study

One of CIER's strongest mandates is environmental education. The consideration of a 1995 Environmental Training Needs Assessment resulted in the creation in CIER's Post-Secondary Division of an innovative, unique and culturally-based national Environmental Education and Training Program (EETP) to provide First Nation youth (over the age of 18) recruited from across Canada with interdisciplinary indigenous and western environmental knowledge and skills. The course is comprised of fifteen months of class instruction and a three month field practicum component. The program is offered in partnership with the University of Manitoba. Graduates receive a certificate in Environmental Assessment, Protection and Education from CIER and the Continuing Education Division of the University of Manitoba. As of June 1997 graduates can transfer their certificate into the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba and receive two full years of degree credit toward the Environmental Science Program.

In the case of the rooftop garden and in keeping with their mandate of environmental education, CIER would promote education in regards to plant species, biodiversity and integrated ecosystem design.

As with other forms of urban agriculture, socially a rooftop garden can provide general health benefits, recreation and amenity space for staff and students and job creation in terms of installation and maintenance.

The space will be used by staff and students during pleasant weather during breaks for mediation and socializing. It is anticipated that any partners and businesses such as Growing Prospects Inc. who do not have a ceremonial space will be invited to use the CIER's rooftop garden. In fact, CIER is considering a partnership with Growing Prospects for garden maintenance and possibly the implementation of a hydroponics system on the roof.

3.1.5 Ecological Manifestations Of The Case Study

To determine what kind of products should be used in the office and therefore the rooftop garden, CIER has some basic criteria and questions about potential products such as: What is it made of? How long will it last? Where is it made? How is it made? Is it recyclable? Based at the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, EcoNexus is creating the Green Procurement Directory: a national, on-line directory of environmentally responsible products and services for public and private use by green procurement officers seeking to purchase in an ecologically conscious manner.

With the renovation of the Kay building CIER had the opportunity to develop green design characteristics into the retrofit using environmentally responsible materials whenever it was possible. Many considerations for a green office have been taken into account at CIER, which even provides a shower at the office to encourage staff to use alternative transportation to commute to work. Many companies and individuals contributed materials or services to the creation of the new office. Green products used in the office include the paint, strawboard, and flooring. Clivus Multrum Canada Ltd. of Toronto donated four composting toilets, priced at approximately $5,000, which are the first commercial application of composting toilets in Winnipeg (installation December 28, 1999). There are two toilets on the third floor that feed into composting units in the second floor and two toilets on fourth floor that feed into composting units on the third floor.

A CIER staff member estimated that, with only twenty-three staff, by using composting toilets the company was saving one million litres of water over five years and helping to reduce water pollution. The toilets collect human waste and toilet paper in an aerated container where bacteria and other micro-organisms decompose the waste and reduce the volume by as much as 90%. The result is a humus-like substance.

The Clivus Multrum composting toilet technology provides a maximum of two cubic foot per year of compost end product similar in bacterial content, texture and colour to topsoil. A liquid fertilizer and soil solution high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous takes about five months to mature. For a product similar to a 20:20:20 solution the fertilizer should be diluted one part liquid compost to ten parts water. Both solid and liquid end-products are biologically stable and do not have an unpleasant odour. The fertilizer will be used in the rooftop garden.

The rooftop garden will not be considered if it does not meet CIER's mandate of integrated ecosystem design. A green roof fits CIER's mandate for the creation of a functioning ecosystem because it has the potential for improved air quality, to mitigate climate, slow stormwater runoff, absorb pollution, reduce noise levels and protect the roof.

The rooftop garden can enhance biodiversity with a diverse collection of First Nation native heritage seeds and plants which should generate wildlife and pollinators to enable the garden to be self-sustaining.

Precipitation will be collected and stored for irrigation. The feasibility of a gray water capture system will be investigated to re-route water from CIER's faucets, shower and dishwasher up to the old water storage/holding tank on the fourth floor that in the past held water to use in the event of a fire. The water can then be pumped to the roof to replenish the water element and water the plants. Some sort of filtration/bioremediation system is necessary for the water holding tank; perhaps with aquatic plants and aquaculture.

Of particular interest to clients is CIER's expertise in the integration of indigenous knowledge into contemporary environmental processes such as environmental and economic impact assessment, ecosystem and biodiversity monitoring including baseline studies and the development and utilization of sustainable development indicators. Program and Community Services (P&CS), a revenue generating environmental consultancy arm of CIER, is one of the practical tools created by CIER to subsidize other non-revenue generating mandate areas such as the education program. Much like Dr. Liu's project mentioned in the preceding literature review, CIER's rooftop garden could potentially be used for research to monitor environmental conditions both before its development and after its implementation. For such an undertaking partnerships would need to be established for the use of measuring instruments and discussion and implementation of appropriate research strategies.

3.1.6 Conclusions

The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources exhibits many of the aspects of urban agriculture and rooftop gardens examined in the literature review.

Physically the rooftop garden planned at CIER demonstrates that roofs do have special zoning, construction and accessibility requirements that can greatly limit and constrain programming and potential. CIER also demonstrates how rooftops are excellent use of lost urban space and can replace some of what the building footprint has taken in terms of land. This use of space can be viewed from above by local highrises who also benefit from the visual beauty of the garden.

Economically the rooftop garden will create jobs for the production, construction and installation of the rooftop membrane, a greenhouse and a water element. The rooftop garden also illustrates the multi-level funding partnerships that are possible for such a project.

Rooftop gardens can provide excellent teaching facilities and social spaces. Socially the rooftop garden will encourage healthy activities and interaction for CIER staff and students. The roof will celebrate an ethnically relevant design program and criteria and will be used as an educational tool for CIER's students and a networking tool for other aboriginal programs in the city.

Rooftop gardens have strong ecological benefits. CIER is an organization that is concerned with environmental issues. The rooftop garden is anticipated to meet the organization's criteria in regards to the use of environmentally sound products, water conservation, nutrient recycling and wildlife habitat creation.

Barriers faced by CIER in implementing the rooftop garden are similar to those experienced by other organizations: technical issues, public lack of knowledge and awareness and cost-based barriers. However, if CIER is able to meet the appropriate zoning and accessibility regulations they will be able to promote rooftop gardens in Winnipeg and take a step towards sustainability and acceptance of a form of urban agriculture with considerable potential.


With the exception of commercial nurseries, few legal hydroponics projects exist in Winnipeg. Planned projects include one by Aids Nine Circles Coalition and possibly one implemented at the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources.

The Nine Circles Community Health Care/AIDS Shelter Coalition of Manitoba rooftop garden/hydroponics greenhouse is in planning stages. It provides a good illustration of how urban agricultural enterprises such as hydroponics benefit from a network of partnerships. The Nine Circles venture is anticipated to produce about a dozen micro-enterprises resulting from urban agriculture ranging from organic bedding plants, exotic mushroom production, cut flower projects and several non-commercial ventures that will promote food self-sufficiency for their members - Nine Circles' main priority. Ninety-five percent of the clients for the Coalition are AIDS patients that live within a five to ten block radius. There are ten to fourteen Food Banks in the area. Nine Circles is trying to phase out their food bank to create a self-sufficient food program. The greenhouse is expected to cost about $12-20 per square foot and be multi-story; 15-20 feet high. Nine Circles is exploring ideas of aquaculture and hydroponics practices. Growing Prospects Inc. is acting as an aquaponics consultant for Nine Circles, who are also connected to the West Broadway Gardening Group and the Broadway First Baptist Church for a community kitchen. The project aims to empower people so that they feel they are in control of their lives; promoting greater physical and mental health.

As discussed in the literature review, one of the strengths of urban agriculture is its flexibility and innovative methods to utilize many different spaces within a city. Growing Prospects Inc., located at the Forks in downtown Winnipeg, was chosen for the case study to demonstrate greenhouse/hydroponics practices because the company has a multi-faceted program with many social and economic benefits and because it is a good illustration of how urban agricultural activity is not necessarily visible. Information for this case study was obtained through a personal interview with Mike Dunlop, general manager (19.05.00).

3.2.1 Introduction/History of Growing Prospects Incorporated (GPI)

Winnipeg's first hydroponics urban greenhouse is, oddly enough, in a location where the sun does not shine. In downtown Winnipeg in a building owned by Canadian National Railway and leased from the Forks-North Portage Partnership, GPI grew from occupying an old baggage/gym area for rail employees under the CN mainline to a business with untold potential. Behind the orange door on the southside of the railway underpass are the offices, a classroom and the growing area of this innovative and unique operation. GPI is a place for unemployed youth between the ages of 19-29 to gain experience in horticulture and practical work experience using confiscated hydroponics equipment based on an ingenious idea to grow and market fresh herbs in the community.

A year-round socializing and shopping area, the Forks National Historic Site is located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. It is a site that has been used as a meeting place for hundreds of years. It is a busy area; a place where an enterprise such as GPI can gain much public exposure to generate sales, media attention and be a way for people to understand a facet of urban agriculture and its potential to make many positive changes in people's lives.

The idea for GPI began in 1994 when teacher and Growing Prospects president Dave Taylor was investigating ways to keep his Dufferin School horticulture project (a solar reflector was used in an outdoor courtyard to produce a variety of vegetables used for classroom cooking and the nutrition program) alive during the winter to increase vegetable production and ensure that the students at the elementary school had an accessible, year-round supply of fresh produce to supplement their diets.

In 1996 Dufferin's 'Green Team' approached the local R.C.M.P. detachment to request growing equipment confiscated predominantly from domestic marijuana growing operations. Dufferin School received a few thousand dollars worth of confiscated hydroponics equipment including ballasts, bulbs, pipes, pumps, reflectors and timers from Winnipeg police and the R.C.M.P. With $300 from the gifted and talented program and donated help from Sunfish Consulting to set up the hydroponics system, Dave Taylor and his Grade 5 and 6 green team members converted one room of Dufferin's vacant dental labs into a garden with three hydroponics systems. The dental lab was suitable because it was equipped with vents, water and drains. The program has produced a bag of lettuce for the school's nutrition program on a weekly basis and gives the students the opportunity to learn quantitative and plant science. Dufferin School hopes to expand their program with more equipment from the police and a little more seed money. Spurred by a gang-related shooting of a student from the school, Dave Taylor saw the possibility for a unique business opportunity to develop a similar but larger program that would provide young people with employment and job training.

Hydroponics is a relatively new form of horticulture and its connection with the illegal cultivation of Cannabis gives it something of a stigma. Indeed, Growing Prospects Inc. encountered this bias initially when presenting the concept to potential project partners.

GPI is a non-profit corporation established in January 1998 for the purpose of growing herbs and vegetables year round for the Winnipeg and Western Canadian market. GPI was established in response to the increasing involvement of inner-city youth in gang related activities. The concept for GPI quickly matured into a community project with help from the Manitoba Agriculture's Kitchen to Market Pack, a comprehensive resource guide for food entrepreneurs that provided an excellent business plan format and step-by-step directions for setting up finances. With the help of Human Resources Canada, Manitoba Education and Training and the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development Inc., GPI provides educational classes, workshops and seminars to unemployed youth. The corporation is operated by a volunteer board which includes representatives from the police, schools and core area and youth programs.

For equipment Growing Prospects Inc. cultivated a unique relationship with City of Winnipeg police and their cache of confiscated hydroponics equipment for which they had little storage and no manpower to supervise. The police do not like to sell equipment through quarterly Crown Asset sales because of buyer anonymity and potential lack of credibility. Insufficient labour to disperse equipment for legitimate use presents the police with a large logistical problem.

More hydroponics equipment is becoming available as court cases are completed. The Winnipeg Police Service is committed to continue supporting GPI. Under the Health Canada seized property protectorate, GPI would be able to absorb the equipment and disperse it to the more than seventy schools in the province of Manitoba who want it to implement hydroponics programs. Health Canada is currently working on a contract with GPI for dispersing the equipment properly. Many people who would like to receive equipment may not know what they need for a successful system or how to install it. Other groups have approached GPI for equipment, including Teen Challenge.

3.2.2 Physical Manifestations Of The Case Study

Designing the building-encapsulated growing space presented several challenges. Renovations to bring the hydroponics system up to speed in the old CN building took four months. The Growing Prospects location was formerly an exercise facility for Canadian National employees. It is hard to imagine how this space - with its low ceiling that rumbles and vibrates loudly with each passing train - would be conducive to prime-result urban agricultural activity. However, as a location for a hydroponics operation, it is adequate due to efforts to maximize available space in order to maximize profitability. Crops have to be very profitable per square foot to offset the expense of lighting and heating systems. GPI have been experimenting with multi-level growing fixtures to increase output.

GPI is Winnipeg's first and smallest indoor hydroponics greenhouse in terms of food production. Growing space occupies 3,000 square feet with an approximately 3,000 square feet more for office and other business uses. GPI currently uses state-of-the-art confiscated lights, fertilizer, pumps, rockwool, flood trays, water reservoirs and drip systems. It is a closed, re-circulating nutrient film system served by a reservoir pump, a manifold to distribute water and a number of 50 foot systems that hold about 450 plants spaced 10-12" apart in 4 x 6" PVC piping. GPI also uses ebb and flow systems.

Metal Hallide lights (1,000 watts), which provide the white/blue spectrum for foliage growth, are suspended from the ceiling every ten feet. The lights are on for sixteen hours a day, including an artificial sunrise and sunset. Some high-pressure sodium lights are used. They add yellow/red light to balance the spectrum for basic plant growth and produce flowers for tomatoes and cucumbers grown for educational purposes.

A heat ventilation recovery system employs the latest technology to conserve energy and re-circulate ambient moisture in the air. Cool air is brought in over the growing lights that pre-warms the air by as much as 200 Celsius before entering the furnace. Condensation is collected from this air as it cools and used to supplement the plants at a maximum of twenty litres of water per day.

Usable space challenges have been turning into opportunities to gain greater efficiency in GPI's growing operation. GPI is seeking funding for a fertigation system - a computer system that controls nutrient distribution to the plants and maximizes their growth potential. At a cost of $26,000 to $30,000 the system would be very marketable technology that would allow GPI to provide consulting services to other greenhouse and hydroponics operations. Plans are in place to expand the growing operation into space that is currently underground parking.

Growing Prospects Inc. retained Algis Corporation in 1999 to develop a preliminary feasibility study for a new, stand-alone greenhouse at the Forks. The Algis Corporation worked with Cohlmeyer Associates Architects Limited to undertake the site planning and preliminary building assessment for the proposed greenhouse. The report examined the Cowles Conservatory at the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis and the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul for precedents in similar climate.

The anticipated site for the greenhouse is behind the VIA station at the Forks in parking lot P3. It would be visible from the train station and would act as a conduit for pedestrians visiting a number of prominent Forks projects. The greenhouse/hydroponics system is anticipated to be approximately 16,000 square feet. GPI hopes that the funding for the project will be in place by spring, 2001 through private partnerships.

The greenhouse will have a unique focus as a centre for growing and presenting information about Aboriginal herbs and roots' contribution to health and wellness. It is anticipated to be a working/demonstration greenhouse with support spaces, administration and classroom facilities to continue the youth training aspect of GPI. At the same time it will be a public amenity; a physical, all-weather link for pedestrians, with public washrooms, retail space, a rental area for public and private functions, an 'incubation space' for start-up entrepreneurs, a winter garden, an education/heritage/interpretative facility and tourist attraction.

3.2.3 Economic Manifestations Of The Case Study

The project's marketing goal is to establish and maintain a relationship with Winnipeg's food service industry for fresh, premium quality culinary herbs as well as supporting community development through partnerships and a training and employment program.

GPI was funded by the Winnipeg Development Agreement (WDA) for a training program and business development as part of the Human Resource Training component of the program. The WDA funding commitment covers the majority of operating costs and overhead. GPI was also funded by the Province of Manitoba Sustainable Development Initiatives Fund (SDIF) and CentrePlan, a tri-level governmental body (part of WDA) to develop and promote businesses in the city. The SDF and the CentrePlan helped to finance the renovations necessary for Growing Prospects. The support of these organizations indicates a consensus that GPI is a sustainable business that benefits the community.

The program currently employs a site manager, sales manger and consultant who is responsible for the education programs with the trainees. It is anticipated that a portion of eligible trainees may have a opportunity for full time employment.

Growing Prospects Inc. approached University of Manitoba business students to produce market surveys and feasibility studies for other ideas and approaches to their enterprise. GPI plans to produce and sell seven types of herbs (including basil, oregano, French tarragon, parsley, specialty mint and marjoram) and lettuce to food brokers (wholesalers), caterers and restaurants. However, GPI concentrates on growing basil which is popular and gives the best return per square foot. Annual production is projected at 3,500 kg of fresh herbs. Basil sells at $16.00 per pound. Growing Prospects makes between $2-4 a pound. They sell about 90 pounds a week. The greenhouse is at 65% capacity -it could grow about 180 pounds a week. To be viable they hope to sell 160 pounds a week at $14.00 a pound. GPI has very competitive pricing. Safeway, whose produce is predominantly from BC and California, sells for about $56 a pound (given that it costs $2 for 14 grams). In 1999 Growing Prospects sold between $23-25,000 worth of basil to local businesses and restaurants. They are working on a partnership with a Manitoba business based in Calgary called 'Peak of the Market' to expand their business base to Western Canada.

A feasibility study funded by Human Development Resources Canada (HDRC) through Community Education Development Association (CEDA) concluded that GPI could become self-sustaining in three years based upon the realistic expectation of expanding up to a twenty-eight operating light system in a 420 metre facility. Currently, growing space occupies 280 square metres with plenty of room for expansion. The expectation involves supplying fresh culinary herbs for sale on the wholesale market at the price of $28-36/kilogram. By year three production is projected to be 5,300 kg. with gross sales in excess of $74,200. Opportunities for retail sales and specialty crops exist with expansion. GPI currently uses low cost packaging for their local buyers. If they expand additional retail packaging costs will have to be added to the wholesale price. Stepping up production to include basil by-products such as pesto would require approved kitchen equipment, packaging and labeling under Consumer Canada requirements.

GPI commissioned the Algis Feasibility Report (1999) which concluded with a building program by Cohlmeyer Associates for a 16,000 square food facility. Greenhouses normally cost $25 per square foot. However, it is anticipated that the production greenhouse will be custom made to suit lean-to conditions with public retail spaces which will require high quality finishes. Therefore would cost an average of $165 per square foot for a total capital cost (excluding taxes) of an estimated $2,625,700 (Algis report, 1999). The report recommended a complete feasibility study to develop an architectural and business program. These programs outline sources of operating costs and revenues to create a greenhouse facility which can operate on a self-sustaining basis while meeting a number of public and private objectives. The proposed retail space (nearly 4,000 square feet worth) of the new greenhouse reviewed by the Algis Corporation is anticipated to sell greenhouse-related products or products from merchants at the Forks seeking additional retail space. The retail and rental aspects of the venue are viewed as essential to capitalize on an important potential source of revenue.

3.2.4 Social Manifestations Of The Case Study

Up to twenty youth between the ages of 19-29 currently on income or employment assistance receive academic upgrading, professional skill development, horticultural courses and hands-on work experience in the continuously operating greenhouse each year. Social workers, literacy programs and work preparation programs refer to GPI youth particularly interested in horticulture. Students are allowed to keep their income assistance benefits during GPI's free program.

Begun in July 1998, the horticultural training program is a combination of work experience and instruction, five hours a day, five days a week for sixteen weeks. It is designed to develop communication, horticultural practices and professional skills necessary for the job selection process. The three classes per year consists of six to seven participants composed of at least one third Aboriginal candidates if possible.

Trainees are expected to understand and apply basic plant science relating to crop production. They must be able to evaluate greenhouse equipment, understand how it works and how it is used in production; know and use the language of horticulture and all appropriate technical terminology; perform all calculations and measurements normally required on the job; read, record and interpret plant maintenance and crop production schedule and select and properly use various tools and equipment. The curriculum includes applied horticulture, professional skill development, business math, English, practical work experience and First Aid/CPR. Growing Prospects employs continuous evaluations based on written tests, oral and work experience evaluations as well as a course end evaluation for each participant.

The professional skill development component shows these youth how to get a job, keep it and be good at it. The project educates trainees with sales and work experience in the horticultural industry in order to allow the graduates to target Manitoba's growing population of market gardeners, garden maintenance personnel, greenhouses and garden centres in their job search. Over one half of the participants (nearly 65%) at the demonstration pilot project have been able to obtain employment in the greenhouse/horticultural business or relevant retail operations at the end of their training. Some trainees had job offers before they had even completed the program. Mike Dunlop, general manager of GPI, described the program as a job preparation program for an entry-level position in the horticulture industry. It gives students the work experience hours necessary to step into an introductory certificate program.

Growing Prospects Inc. expands the students' work experience by maintaining plants for the Forks, looking after annual and perennial beds, planters on restaurant patios and selling basil in the market. They are working with the Forks North Portage partnership, the City of Winnipeg naturalist and the Living Prairie Museum on the Forks Prairie Garden. With donations from Prairie Flower Originals and Prairie Habitats Wildflower Nursery, they were able to boost the number of flowers in the tall grass prairie for appeal rather than authenticity (in fact the area was originally mainly hummock and oak species). Dunlop says that people didn't appreciate the tall grass prairie bed very much; there is a mentality that many of the native plants are weeds. For example, yarrow, a native plant, is listed as a weed in species books.

Profits from herb sales support Choices Gang Prevention Program operated in schools by the Winnipeg Police Service and Winnipeg School Division #1 and the community education development association of Winnipeg Y.O.P. (Youth Opportunity Projects) which creates opportunities for youth employment in the inner city.

GPI is looking to develop a partnership with Keewatin Tribal Council in Thompson to develop a hydroponics system to grow produce for salads. A hydroponics system is appropriate for the tribe given their shorter growing season and limited solar exposure. There is an opportunity to develop a partnership with bands in the North to improve their nutrition and give them the opportunity to grow food for themselves.

According to the Algis Report (1999), the educational aspects of the proposed greenhouse include the cultivation of Aboriginal herbs and roots that contribute to heritage themes consistent with the Forks Heritage Interpretative Plan which acknowledges the important contribution made by Aboriginal people in the Forks area and notes that an experimental farm was built by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1836 at the Forks.

3.2.5 Ecological Manifestations Of The Case Study

In 1999, Growing Prospects Inc. was twice nominated and once recognized by the Manitoba Roundtable for the Environment for their contribution to sustainable development by promoting locally grown produce. In addition GPI practices many other conservation methods.

GPI recycles confiscated hydroponics equipment, preventing unused equipment from becoming destined for landfill. They have also recycled underdeveloped inner city real estate by developing an old under-used area into an urban agricultural centre and training ground. The nature of hydroponics systems means that no soil had to be imported from another source for this enterprise. GPI uses a rockwool growing medium and a water soluble fertilizer/nutrient solution that is re-filtered into the system before eventually Forks maintenance sprays their planting beds with it. Although the nutrient solution is a manufactured product, the plants are pesticide and herbicide free.

Growing Prospects Inc. would like to use some type of living machine for gray water reuse that may include aquaculture and appropriate bio-remediatory plant species. However, as pointed out by a GPI employee, general acceptance of something like a living machine would need a demonstration site before potential funding could be made available.

GPI is a pesticide and herbicide-free operation. They employ Manbico, a business developed by two University of Manitoba entomology graduates who advise GPI on integrated pest management techniques. Basil is prone to common greenhouse pests that include Trialeurodes vapouriorum (whitefly), Aphis gossypii (aphid) and Frankliniella occidentalis (Western flower thrip). The pest infestations run in monthly cycles. Integrated pest management introduces predatory insects that attack eggs or adult pests. The predators used by GPI are Encarsia formosa (parasitic wasp) for the whitefly, Orius insidiosus (insidious pirate bug) for the thrips and Amblyseius cucmeris (cucumeris) which attack Western flower thrip eggs. GPI propagates basil, but 30-50% of their basil is grown from seed to keep the crop from inheriting strains of disease and to maintain general plant health.

The preliminary feasibility study by Algis Corporation (1999) for a new, stand-alone greenhouse at the Forks promotes a unique design incorporating new environmental concepts including solar energy, re-circulation of rainwater and computer-managed fertilization. The greenhouse systems have been selected with maximum automation to reduce long-term operation costs and limit system replacement costs. Controls include heat (radiant floor heating system), water, chemical and light - all automatic through a system of sensors linked with an environment management computer system.

Passive solar gain with be achieved through southern roof glazing. Automated 'energy curtains' will be used as part of the roof system to help prevent heat loss. Cooling will be achieved through a supplemental forced air system, a wet wall system, continuous fully automated roof vent louvers and an air conditioning system. Rainwater collection and a reservoir system will be provided. Acrylic glazing in the production greenhouse will provide maximum light transmission.

3.2.6 Conclusions

Growing Prospects Inc. is an excellent case study to demonstrate the potential for greenhouse/hydroponics systems within a city. Greenhouses are commonly found in northern urban landscapes where the climate prohibits year-round outdoor production. Vacant urban sites and buildings are good sites for greenhouses. Physically GPI illustrates that urban agriculture does not have to be visible from the street to be a successful urban agricultural initiative. In fact, this case study illustrates just how urban agricultural activity can invigorate lost space and revitalize an old building.

Economically, GPI is an urban agricultural success story. With economic production as the avenue to fulfill other mandates, GPI flourishes with local donations, investments and interest in their product. GPI demonstrates that an agricultural crop can be grown in the city for profit, particularly specialty crops such as herbs, as consumer demand for fresh cut basil continues to increase.

Socially, GPI provides an excellent example how, even by growing just one product, people's lives can be improved through learning and employment. Urban agricultural activity in 3,000 square feet of growing space is changing the lives of inner-city unemployed youth with training and future job potential. The profits from GPI contribute to youth projects in the inner city, furthering its importance as a business and as a way to improve the situations of many.

Hydroponics can enhance an ecologically efficient year-round growing season of productivity and makes it possible to avoid high priced out-of-season grocery produce. Ecologically, GPI demonstrates that not only can nutrients be recycled, but so can old buildings. With integrated pest management techniques, soil-less production and its contribution to reducing the ecological costs of long transportation, GPI deserves its nominations as a contributor to sustainable development.

With its continued success, Winnipeg may see Growing Prospects Inc.'s operation make the progression from a behind-the-scene production into a state-of-the-art greenhouse system designed as an important landmark at the Forks site; a change that would promote urban agricultural activity to a variety of people; local and international.


An allotment garden may be defined as a piece of land used by individuals to produce food and flowers for personal use. Many allotments that are leased through Winnipeg Hydro, Manitoba Hydro and Burlington North Railway. All groups must sign agreements with the land providers and pay a rental fee. Winnipeg Hydro is in the process of phasing out allotments because they are proving to be too much trouble to administer, particularly in the north end of the inner city. Manitoba Hydro's experience has proven to be somewhat different in terms of administration in Winnipeg's North End because Hydro's property is in a suburban area (Hawkes, 2000).

Many allotments operate on a yearly basis on city land with a lease from City of Winnipeg's Department of Parks and Recreation which acts as a brokering agency. This service used to be provided through clerks at City Hall, but the procedure was moved to Parks and Recreation in 1995 because the Parks and Recreation department is better equipped to deal with the volume and administer and allocate property. All City land is zoned differently. If a citizen observes land that they may want to convert to a garden, they contact Parks and Recreation who in turn check the land's zoning and status with the Property and Development Office. Many allotment gardens are on land designated as park space but undeveloped as such. Interestingly, allotment gardens are not seen as compatible with parks and as yet not integrated into land slated for park development (Freeman, 2000). Plots rented from the City of Winnipeg cost $19.63 unserviced or $28.97 serviced. The extra $10 merits maintenance by Parks and Recreation which includes roto-tilling and end of season clean up. Water is not provided by the department and no start up site development service is performed by the City. The sites rented are 'as-is.' The City does not guarantee the suitability or condition of the plot, a particularly relevant matter in regards to site condition and level of toxins. Soil testing must be taken up by the individual. The City also takes no responsibility for theft or vandalism at the site. Gardeners working on City property must agree to a contract before an agreement is made (see appendix).

There are three horticultural societies that rent land from the City through the Department of Parks and Recreation. They include the Riverview Community Garden which has been in existence for about thirty years; one of Winnipeg's oldest and largest allotment gardens. Riverview is located between the Red River and Churchill Drive behind the Riverview Health Centre. There are approximately 100 plots and nearly as many people involved. One of the gardeners, Ron O'Donovan, began the 'Grow-A-Row' for Winnipeg Harvest Program. During harvest season Winnipeg Harvest visits the garden for donations. The garden operates under a City grandfather clause because they are located on old hospital land (King George/Queen Elizabeth). Therefore instead of the regular City charge of about $20, people pay about $7 for unserviced property. The money pays for a maintenance person who roto-tills the land in the Fall and does general maintenance three times a Summer. Riverview does practice composting. They have some trouble with theft. The society has some autonomy, reserving right to plow under untended plot to distribute it to a second party.

Much like the Riverview Horticultural Society, the St. James Horticultural Society has been gardening allotments since the war. They are located in the Legion Park Area of Winnipeg on unbuildable land immediately north of the airport. There are approximately one hundred plots. About 65% of the gardeners are seniors. It is recommended but not required that people Grow-A-Row for Winnipeg Harvest. Interestingly, composting practices are not allowed. Rainbarrels are optional although the Society pays for two metered water outlets.

The Charleswood Horticultural Society gardens allotments at St. Charles Grove, near the perimeter bridge and St. Charles Parish. With just over thirty participants, many of the gardeners are seniors. Composting is not allowed; neither are rainbarrels. The gardeners pump water from the river.

The Manitoba Hydro allotment gardens were chosen for this case study because they are quite successful in terms of the number of people that are involved and the areas of the City in which the gardens are located. The separate areas illustrate differences in socio-economic status and the age demographics of the participants. Information for this case study was obtained through a personal interview with Karen Carswell, land agent with the Manitoba Hydro Property Department (30.05.00).

3.3.1 Introduction/History of Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens (MHAG)

Throughout Winnipeg on Manitoba Hydro owned right-of-ways many people, particularly seniors, compete with quack grass and matted, stubborn weeds to grow many pounds of fresh vegetables on long strips of otherwise mown grass under huge steel towers.

The transmission line was built in 1928 and people have gardened there ever since. However, the allotments were not formalized until the mid-1970s. According to long-time Manitoba Hydro employee Al Derkson, the allotment situation was formalized because apparently some adjacent landowners were taking control of the situation, becoming land barons and renting out plots on their own accord.

3.3.2 Physical Manifestations Of The Case Study

Manitoba Hydro has several generating stations in the northern part of the province which provide power to be transferred to substations by transmission lines that can carry up to 500 kilowatts of power. Substations harness and distribute power to residences and businesses. Although Winnipeg Hydro is responsible for City power, Manitoba Hydro has transmission lines that run through Winnipeg to reach the southern portion of the province.

Karen Carswell is a land agent with the Manitoba Hydro Property Department. One of her responsibilities is to find secondary uses for Manitoba Hydro property and oversee these uses. Some farmers in rural areas farm the property - it is designated for agricultural and grazing use. In the city some of the land is used for transit loops. Many times the land will be rented to businesses for signage or car parks. For example, the parking lot of Home Depot's Bishop Grandin location is on Manitoba Hydro property.

Another secondary use for Hydro land is allotment gardens, all of which are for public use and all of which are along transmission right-of-ways. Manitoba Hydro runs the allotment gardening program primarily as a public relations amenity (Carswell, 2000). The sites are secure; Manitoba Hydro will not consider another, more profitable use for the land. The role of Manitoba Hydro is that of allotment administration, organization and placement. They do not provide maintenance and interfere little with the functioning of the gardens unless any rules of the gardening contract are violated.

The allotments and the gardeners that tend them are dwarfed by the steel hydro towers and the immensity of the rights-of-way. Without the gardens, the rights-of-way would be neatly mown strips of grass that run throughout the city flagged by roads, houses and impromptu parking lots. The gardens add visual diversity to the urban landscape. Berry shrubs and vertical climbers add height to the gardens whilst most crops are planted in rows that add an unusual perspective to the sites and contribute a variety of colours and textures in a patchwork quilt of allotments whose appearance is determined by the individuals who garden them.

Manitoba Hydro has three areas in the city that they designate for allotment gardening. One is in the North End between Inkster Boulevard and Selkirk Avenue, west of McPhillips Street and east of Fife Street. A second site is in St. Vital south of St. Michael Road between St. Mary's Road and River Road along Bishop Grandin Boulevard. The St. Vital site is obscured by vegetation and many who use it live adjacent - adding some square footage to their own properties. The third site is in Fort Garry between McGillivray Boulevard and Clarence Avenue, east of Irene Street and west of Pembina Highway. There are enough plots to meet current demand. If demand grew, a site in Transcona could serve as a fourth allotment garden. Adjacent land not currently designated for gardening may be developed, but land in currently in use as a garden will not be touched. There are no plans to stop the allotment garden program and at this time no real plans for extension.

In total there are about ninety plots; sixty of them are an average size of 25' x 50' or 1250 feet square, fifteen plots are double sized and fifteen of them are different sizes. The annual rental is $15 ($16.05 with G.S.T.) per plot.

Although it is specified that the right-of-ways are not to be driven on, many people do so to transport plants and water. However, many people who garden at the allotments are local residents with access to domestic water supply which they transport in buckets or other appropriate containers. Many of the gardeners water intensively for the first few weeks after planting and then rely on seasonal weather to bring rain.

The allotments are specified by contract for gardening purposes only. The main items grown in the gardens are vegetables although some people grow a few flowers. No trees are allowed; they could pose a potential problem because of roots interfering with Hydro infrastructure such as underground fibre optic cables - particularly running down the length of Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

3.3.3 Economic Manifestations Of The Case Study

Much like community gardening, allotment gardening is practiced primarily in Winnipeg as a hobby. Most often contribution domestic food budget is viewed as a side benefit. Most people have so much surplus produce that they give to friends and family. No records are kept for harvest quantities.

The personal testimony of one gardener in the North End, Mr. Peter Sadlowski, indicated the volume of harvest from an individual plot. He has a plot that is nearly 2,000 feet square. Even though tomatoes comprise only about one twentieth of the plot, in 1999 he grew forty tomato plants that yielded two-four gallon buckets of tomatoes per plant. He gives away most of his produce including radishes, onions, strawberries, lettuce, beets, carrots, cucumber and zucchini. Everyone in the area benefits from the garden.

3.3.4 Social Manifestations Of The Case Study

Plots are solicited through the mail with the monthly hydro bill. There is a form letter and permit given to the previous year's gardeners to renew their plot by April 15. Included with the solicitation is a self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage immediate response (see appendix). The rights and licenses granted by the permit cannot be assigned or transferred to anyone by the permit holder, who, by contract, agrees to keep the allotment in tidy condition; no rubbish or refuse may be allowed to accumulate. There are about 100 participants, located predominantly in the North End. Gender distribution is difficult to gage because participants pay for a plot through their hydro bill; principally addressed to the male in a household.

There is a strong ethnic and senior composition in Winnipeg's North End. Particularly in the North End and to some extent in Fort Garry, some people garden to supplement their food budget. However, the predominant reason for gardening in all of the sites is the social component (Carswell, 2000). Many seniors enjoy the interaction with other residents and being able to give surplus produce to family and neighbours. The allotments provide seniors with recreation, exercise and a social outlet. On the morning of my visit to the North End garden, several seniors came out of their residences to visit and chat about their allotment gardens.

Rules for the allotments are part of the social manifestation of the case study. They are the reason, for example, why the gardens are tidy, the composting bins are limited in number and few people drive to their plot.

The mandatory contract with Manitoba Hydro is predominantly because Hydro's main mission and concern is safety. For liability reasons participants are not allowed fencing or building structures of any kind, rain barrels (exception: a rain barrel with a locking, funnel-shaped lid) and compost is discouraged.

Fences may keep Hydro equipment from gaining access to towers, to which they reserve the right to obtain access at any time - even if it means that a garden may be compromised or damaged. In addition, fences be problematic in the case of children catching themselves on ones with poor visibility. Open rain barrels are a hazard; children could drown. This is the reason why a rain barrel with a locking lid is permissible. Composting units pose a problem for hydro companies renting allotments because they have been sued over a variety of compost-related circumstances. For example, a situation developed when a woman bumped into a compost bin, upset some bees and was consequently stung. Rodent infestations may cause similar problems.

Manitoba Hydro does not charge two organizations rent: Maples Seniors Co-op and the Metis Association, both in the North End. Both seem to have given up their privileges this year (Carswell, 2000). There is a gardener by Agincourt in St. Vital who claims to be growing all of his produce for Winnipeg Harvest. Consequently he is charged for half a plot.

There is no formal educational component to the allotment gardens. There is no organizational body or network. The work is strictly done on a private individual basis although neighbouring gardeners may help each other by sharing equipment and produce.

People garden at their own risk. There is little evidence of theft or vandalism, although it depends on who you talk to. Theft and vandalism does exist but because the plots are such a generous size few people are bothered by it. One benefit to the issue of theft is that by homeless people - 'wealth redistribution' at its most basic form. There is nothing that can be done about it - Manitoba Hydro is not responsible to the gardeners in case of theft and, as previously specified, according to the contract fencing and any other means of restricting access is prohibited.

3.3.5 Ecological Manifestations Of The Case Study

Manitoba Hydro's main concern for safety and liability does not allow for rain barrels for water conservation and actively discourages composting although some gardeners do use compost and keep a compost pile despite allotment rules.

The corporate response to the question of electro-magnetic field risks is that Manitoba Hydro research indicates that there are no side effects from living or gardening near hydro towers (Carswell, 2000). An article in Maclean's magazine (1999) regarding the possible link between cancer, specifically leukemia and issues of electro-magnetic damage concluded that there is insufficient evidence of medical risk. Due lack of information or lack of concern, people continue to garden in hydro rights-of way allotments.

Despite the common introduction of livestock in rights-of-way, it is not applicable in this situation due to City by-laws concerning agricultural zoning and health department regulations. Even if Manitoba Hydro allowed, for example, chickens to be kept on their right-of-ways, it would require fencing, which is not permitted. Livestock would most likely not be supported by other gardeners and it may limit Hydro's access to a tower.

It appears that the main ecological contribution of the allotment gardens is their use of lost urban space and its revitalization as a productive landscape. Because of the allotment gardens, hydro rights-of-way have become a diverse landscape that weaves through the city attracting pollinators and wildlife.

3.2.6 Conclusions

The Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens case study illustrates many relevant issues described in the literature review in relation to allotment gardens and urban agricultural activity.

Physically, allotment gardens on rights-of-way are a pervasive land use throughout Winnipeg, particularly on hydro property. Because of their allotment gardening program, Manitoba Hydro rights-of-way have been transformed from homogenous strips of sod and quack grass into diverse and beautiful landscapes that weave through the city.

Economically, due to the size of the allotment garden participants are able to grow large amounts of fresh produce which could supplement household income by freeing capital for other expenses. Contrary to the literature, there was no evidence of participants selling their produce.

Many gardeners distribute extra produce to others in the community - thereby furthering the influence of the gardens and promoting social unity and community health. Others enjoy the recreational aspects offered by the gardens , particularly seniors, who live adjacent to the plots.

Ecologically the gardens attract wildlife and pollinators and provide opportunities for the use of lost space within the City in the creation of productive landscapes.


Food is an important aspect of urban agricultural activities such as community gardening. However, the benefits of community gardens extend into other far-reaching urban issues such as social development, ecology and health. Besides the gardeners themselves many others people within the community benefit from community gardening. In many respects - particularly in developed countries - urban agriculture is more about community than economic incentive.

A community garden may include common areas that are not allotted to individuals and education programs that involve schools and youth groups in gardening activities.

Community gardening in Winnipeg has often been done through independent projects with contacts in the community network such as 'Gardening for People' in the 1980s or the Winnipeg Community Gardening Network (WCGN) of the 1990s. The WCGN was started in 1997 by Sarah Koch-Schulte and Marcus Wolfe. Although in existence for only one year, it connected twenty people within the city involved with urban agriculture, acted as a resource base and helped four projects access funding and write grants.

Many of the community gardens in Winnipeg maintain a system of personal plots. However some have communal plots in which garden maintenance is done on a casual drop-in basis and the harvest is shared by all. This works particularly well with children and in transient neighbourhoods. Often a mentoring relationship becomes important in communal plots and training in gardening skills, cooking and nutrition are other roles of a project of this type.

For example, the St. Matthews Community Garden located in the Winnipeg's Wolseley area has two communal plots and individual plots. A number of transient people are involved with the garden. The numbers swell to up to thirty people but the average number of gardeners is eight. The garden has received funding from a United Way Grant, a one time response that allowed for two part time coordinators; the Plura Group, a church umbrella organization; anonymous donations; Mazon - a Jewish organization interested in responses to hunger and Partners in Mission - churches that fill community organizations' needs for basic equipment, seeds etc.

St. Matthew's Garden sells preserves at church teas and intends to become involved with a new farmer's market near the Legislative Building. St. Matthew's maintains a community kitchen in which every participant pays $1.25 once a week, an amount subsidized by five times by church programs. Many of the participants need special attention; they are not familiar with many types of vegetables and need the skills to cook them and understand their nutritional value.

Liz Standing, coordinator of the St. Matthew's Garden, stressed the need for permanent funding for urban agricultural initiatives. She stated that in the long run, funding will save the government money by teaching life skills and self-reliance to core area residents and in terms of people's nutritional, physical and mental health, all of which can be ameliorated through projects such as community gardening and community kitchens (Standing, 2000).

The West Broadway Gardening Group (WBGG) was chosen for the case study that examines community gardens because it exhibits many of the typical characteristics revealed about community gardens in the preceding literature review; namely social issues such as community involvement, charity and education. Information for this case study was obtained through a personal interview with Rico John, garden coordinator (27.05.00).

3.4.1 Introduction/History Of The West Broadway Gardening Group (WBGG)

In the heart of Winnipeg's busy, predominantly low-income and transient commercial/high density residential West Broadway area a lot of hard work and love have gone into the community garden that is regarded as a showpiece for the neighbourhood if not the city. The garden is building a strong and healthy community on a variety of levels. Rico John, the garden coordinator, described the lush garden as a 'cool drink in the concrete oasis' of Winnipeg.

The West Broadway Community Garden on Sherbrook Avenue began in the mid-1990s; the brainchild of Alana Daley who inherited it from a now-defunct environmental group called Earth Corp and others in the neighbourhood. The land used by the WBGG belongs to a past resident of the area Mr. Raj Shah, who was approached by the group for permission to garden at the site. Shah gave permission based on an intermittent agreement. Subsequently he agreed that the garden could be used on a continual basis until he had a different use for it - at which time he would give the gardeners a year's notice. Initially the garden was funded by the then Fort Rouge councilor at the time; Mayor Glen Murray, past MLA Jean Friesen and the West Broadway Biz.

3.4.2 Physical Manifestations Of The Case Study

In the middle of busy streets and concrete buildings lies a lush and verdant garden. Many people drive by it, stare, and drive by it again to park and enjoy the view. The vacant, long abandoned lot required much work; for many years it had been a local dumping ground for garbage, concrete and bricks.

The site, approached from the west side of Sherbrook Avenue, is vibrant with wildflowers and various plots which contain vegetables and fruit plants. The newly installed rainbarrel sits at the centre of the garden near the compost. The WBGG would like to install an equipment shed, a greenhouse and a water source on site.

There are possibly fifteen participants (counting organizations as one person). The garden has three types of plots: communal (two), organizational (two) and individual (seven). As part of the agreement for gardening at the site every participant must spend some time looking after community plots and communal areas. The communal areas include pathways, the herb wheel, compost bins and the wildflower bed. Occasionally teens from Urban Green Team at the Broadway Community Centre help to weed, maintain paths and do other chores in the communal areas.

Individual plots at the West Broadway garden vary in size. If the gardener is a beginner and does not have much time to commit, the plot is usually fairly small. A more committed and experienced gardener's plot may be larger than the beginners - up to 6 x 10 feet.

3.4.3 Economic Manifestations Of The Case Study

Gardening is free for the participants. The West Broadway Gardening Group receives annual funding of about $3,000 from various sources; financial and in-kind from Prairie Originals, Home Depot, Winnipeg Harvest's Grow-A-Row program, T & T Seeds, Winnipeg Supply, Reimer Soils, Sherbrook Suds, Armstrong Point Residents' Association and a few other community groups. Although the WBGG has no central office, the Broadway Community Centre is a location that provides the gardeners and the coordinator a place to meet, organize, perform administration tasks and store some equipment.

In 1999 the gardeners harvested more than twelve bushels of tomatoes and nearly as much squash. They grow cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, green and red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, radishes, lettuce, green onions, herbs, raspberries, strawberries and numerous varieties of annual and perennial flowers. The produce from the communal areas often goes to a community table at a local event as part of the garden's commitment to community participation and pride.

The gardening site is for sale. Mr. Shah has given the gardening group first choice for purchase, but the group must raise $60,000. Rico John feels that if the City would purchase the land there would be more chance of a water source installed on site.

Given its popularity the WBGG has considered starting another site. However, if another vacant lot was available it is may be owned by someone who would demand compensation or it may need to be leased from the City. In the latter scenario an unserviced lot would cost the participants rent (rented plots from the City cost $19.63 unserviced or $28.97 serviced). As Rico John (2000) stated, a community garden is a labour of love, providing a source of pride, joy and nutritious food for the area's residents. You can't put a price on that.

3.4.4 Social Manifestations Of The Case Study

Despite perceived economic need, in Winnipeg's inner city people garden predominantly for the sense of community and exercise rather than economic viability (John, 2000).

Education is a strong component of the West Broadway Gardening Group's mandate. Community workshops are given by the coordinators at the garden, the Broadway Community Centre, Crossways or 25 Furby Avenue - a local residence and day-care. Topics at workshops cover such issues as planting and seeds, tool use, cleaning and storage, composting and harvesting. The WBGG plan to introduce preserving workshops, particularly if plans for a community kitchen or a community table are implemented in partnership with Crossways, Agape Table, Aids Nine Circle Coalition or the Broadway Community Centre.

The WBGG faces the same problems as most other community gardens; lack of permanent tenure, misunderstanding in regards to proper composting procedures and some theft and vandalism. However, frequent gardening visits help to keep the rate of theft down. In terms of maintenance, water for the garden is supplied by the neighbours as agreed to by both parties according to the existing situation. In the past in has been donated by a neighbouring laundromat. Water is also obtained from the domiciles of two WBGG gardeners. The group borrows or rents roto-tillers at least twice a year. They have many hand tools, forks, spades and hoes that they store in a garage at the Broadway Community Centre and at two local residences.

Although Winnipeg Harvest gives the West Broadway Gardening Group seeds there is no agreement between Harvest and the gardeners for produce. Vegetable donations is a personal option for the gardeners.

The garden is very diverse in terms of participants, many of whom are African, Asian, European and Aboriginal. There are teens who garden and seniors who garden. People are gardeners first; age difference and religious affiliation assumes secondary importance. Everyone shares information and gardening secrets.

The Golden Lions of Winnipeg have a plot, as do AIDS Nine Circles Coalition who, as previously indicated, are investigating alternative food access for their clientele. They are connected to the West Broadway Gardening Group as part of their mandate to empower people to be more politically active and have better health. Having Nine Circles involved meets WBGG's mandate to further integrate the community with the garden.

The WBGG uses flyers and word of mouth for publicity and to encourage people in the community to join the gardening project and its various events. In 1999 a solstice ceremony was held in the garden. There is an annual Rastafari ceremony about the third week of May to bless the land. Everyone from the community is welcome to these ceremonies.

The WBGG would like to include more people from the community in the garden by hosting more picnics, barbeques and other social events at the site. The garden is very successful. It is regarded as a prestigious place within the community and city and many are interested in being involved in some capacity.

3.4.5 Ecological Manifestations Of The Case Study

The WBGG is very conscious of ecological processes inherent in an endeavour such as a community garden. They have introduced seed saving practices in light of the possibility of transgenic seeds succeeding traditional seeds. The garden is organic; there is no pesticide use or chemical fertilizer. They use only compost for fertilizer. The composter is to be rebuilt in the Summer of 2000. The WBGG introduced rainbarrel technology to promote water conservation at the site in June, 2000.

There is a perennial wildflower bed and an annual bed on site to attract pollinators. The gardeners would like to grow more fruit and perhaps cultivate a small orchard with apple, pear, cherry and peach trees. Not only yielding fruit, the orchard would provide shade and attract pollinators and a greater diversity of wildlife species.

The site has been tested for lead contamination. The last test, done in 1998 by the University of Manitoba in conjunction with Manitoba Conservation (then known as Environment Manitoba). Results indicated that lead levels were high likely from traffic and dumping on-site. However lead levels were not threateningly high, or of a type that was soluble - capable of being absorbed by plants. Existing soil was amended with new soil and compost.

3.4.6 Conclusions

The community garden case study strongly demonstrates many of the characteristics discussed in the literature review regarding community gardens.

Physically, community gardens provide a strong example of legitimate non-traditional use of open space within a city. The West Broadway Gardening Group thrives on what once was a vacant, abandoned and garbage-strewn lot in Winnipeg's inner city. It is now a vibrant and lush space with wildflower beds and plots with an large assortment of fruits and vegetables.

Economically, one would expect to find that community gardens are a particularly good example of urban agricultural activity that donates and supports the community with fresh produce. This is true of the WBGG, which donates food to community tables and foodbanks; contributing to community food security. The garden has established many links with local businesses who sponsor the garden with in-kind donations.

Community gardens have a strong social component. The West Broadway Gardening Group has cultivated a special place for people in West Broadway to garden, learn from a variety of workshops and enjoy themselves. It is a place that promotes community spirit and celebrates cultural diversity. Local people are proud of the garden and it is helping to promote West Broadway as a friendly and diverse place to live.

Ecologically, community gardeners usually have a political angle that includes resource conservation. The WBGG encourages composting, water conservation techniques and organic practices.

CHAPTER FOUR: Conclusions and Recommendations


The case studies indicate that urban agricultural practice has the potential to fit into many on-going programs in urban centres today; creating edible landscapes that are physically, economically, socially and ecologically more sustainable for tomorrow.

Apart from the multiple social and community aspects of urban agriculture, the literature review reveals problematic issues regarding urban agriculture that include a combination of hunger, continued degradation and loss of prime agricultural land, the limited viability of small farms and a general dissatisfaction with the energy-intensive and environmentally unsound global food system. These concerns have motivated community based organizations to investigate alternatives for food supply that are less expensive and closer to source. Community control of food production improves environmental stewardship of productive landscapes and can contribute to improved waste management. Urban food production and alternative marketing schemes including community supported agriculture, food co-operatives, community kitchens and farmers' markets can contribute to diversified food security at an individual and community level. Beyond food production urban agricultural projects have the potential to provide local employment, increase city green space and promote civic pride. Most urban agricultural projects are organized around community, allotment and rooftop gardening. Urban food production requires diverse technologies and approaches including composting, small-space use, greenhouses, hydroponics, permaculture and water conservation that contribute to a more sustainable food production system.

Most urban agricultural initiatives have resulted from demand at the grass roots and tend to differ between communities depending on civic support and city regulations. While it is not exceptional to find urban agricultural activity in major Canadian cities. officially adopted policies which support and encourage it are rare. Based on the literature review and case studies, urban agriculture, forms of which vary in size and type, is experiencing a revival in many cities across Canada. The dichotomy between nature and urban life is becoming less pronounced. Gardening is the second most popular form of leisure activity in Canada, attracting 72% of Canadian adults (City of Toronto, 1999). In many ways Canada is fairly progressive in regards to urban agricultural initiatives, particularly in Montreal (community gardening) and Toronto (green roof promotion). However, given its popularity and significant benefits and despite food security summits Habitat II and Agenda 21, urban agriculture has received little attention from professionals and government unless in direct relation to job creation and prevention of urban blight; perceived to be its primary benefits. The revival of community gardening culture and rooftop gardening clearly indicates that a portion of the population is interested in engaging in different forms of urban food production. Despite revival of this trend, academic interest and urban agriculture-related conferences have been limited. Canadian urban agricultural practices have no strong organizational component.

In Winnipeg community based urban agriculture is practiced for reasons of food quality, economics, environmental considerations, education and community development. Indicated by the four case studies, the distinctions between forms of urban agriculture such as rooftop gardens, greenhouse/hydroponics operations, allotment gardens and community gardens stem from their location, land use and mandate. Figure 8 compares the four Winnipeg case studies (Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, Growing Prospects Inc., the Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens and the West Broadway Gardening Group), by an analysis of the occurrence of the determined characteristics of urban agriculture - physical, economic, social and ecological. The table is followed by a discussion of different and like attributes.

Figure 8: Comparison Of The Case Studies








utilization of lost urban space





land tenure security




add to visual aesthetic of area





involve financial partnerships




income generation




employment generation



stimulation of local economy





affiliated with community kitchens



donations/charity work




diversity of age and religious affiliation



formal job training



particular ethnic affiliation



educational component




create/contribute to community pride



integration of community






water conservation



nutrient recycling




organic practices





integrated pest management


Interestingly each of the four characteristics have one attribute that is common to each case study. In the physical manifestation all of the case studies utilize lost urban space. In the economic manifestation all of the case studies stimulate the local economy. Socially all of the case studies integrate the community. Ecologically all of the case studies use organic production methods. The two case studies exhibiting the most features were Growing Prospects Incorporated and the West Broadway Gardening Group community garden (14 out of 19). One may conclude from this result that community based organizations with a wide variety of support are able to have more flexibility in regards to programming and contribution to the participants. The Manitoba Hydro Allotment Garden had the least attributes (10 out of 19) and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources had 13 out of 19 attributes. The case studies held little surprise in regards to the information generated by the literature review. However there was certain information generated in the case studies; successes that helped to determine recommendations for the acceptance and expansion of urban agriculture (4.2).

Physical Manifestations

The physical infrastructure of a city, such as arable areas available for production including vacant lots, parks, rooftops and rights-of-way, is important to support urban agriculture. One of the largest barriers that urban agriculture faces is official acceptance and provision of essential infrastructure including water availability and site access issues. In the four case studies, only the Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens has certain tenure. Because they are affiliated with a public utility organization that keeps the gardening program as a public relations amenity, the allotments have assured longevity. The government partnerships established with Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources and Growing Prospects Inc. provide tenure for their urban agricultural initiatives. The property that is the site for the West Broadway Gardening Group is for sale.

Part of agriculture's success in a city is due in part to its adaptability and opportunities to utilize lost urban space. It can appear between buildings on a once-derelict city vacant lot; lush, verdant and cool as illustrated by the West Broadway Gardening Group - who believe that their garden has changed the landscape and is influencing public perception of the inner city. Urban agriculture can contribute to the biodiversity of an emerging green matrix weaving through the City, incorporating transportation and hydro right-of-ways. The three Manitoba Hydro allotment garden sites are a dynamic use for rights-of-way that would otherwise be a visually homogenous and unproductive landscape near industrial sites. Urban agriculture has considerable potential to change the roofscape of a city. The Centre of Indigenous Environmental Design believes that many people in the surrounding highrises will view and derive much pleasure from CIER's rooftop garden. To other extreme, sometimes urban agriculture is not even visible in the urban landscape. It may be tucked away in a rail station; hidden but still productive as demonstrated by Growing Prospects Inc.

Urban agriculture stimulates and encourages community participation. A productive landscape can change an area that was unused and often visually unstimulating to one exhibiting civic activity and contributes greatly to city green space. This type of change may influence citizens, government and professionals to rethink what landscapes they consider to be of aesthetic merit.

Economic Manifestations

Small scale intensive agriculture can be the focus of an important part of urban economic development and affordable urban renewal.

Diverse networks in Canada that employ various strategies for greater food security are moving towards a common vision of a sustainable food system based on grass roots approaches. Community-based organizations can play an umbrella role for a variety of grass roots activities, spearhead or incubate new food action strategies, provide training opportunities, inform the public or facilitate policy development particularly working in close partnership with local governments to achieve mutual goals. Alternative food access organizations such as community kitchens, CSAs, farmers' markets and 'Good Food Boxes' are growing in number and breadth; presenting themselves as a way for many Canadians to circumvent mainstream food policy to access affordable and nutritious food. Often alternative food access organizations work in conjunction with community gardens. This is illustrated by WBGG, who are investigating ways to integrate their community garden with community tables and a community kitchen to break the cycle of poor nutrition and food access due to poverty. They explore opportunities to share their garden with other food-access groups such as Aids Nine Circles Coalition.

Urban agriculture can expand municipal revenues and cut operational costs through partnerships with other land use and economic activity. This is illustrated by the exploration of how the City of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Hydro and Manitoba Hydro operate allotment gardens on unused and vacant land. Citizens pay a fee to maintain the landscape in such a way that promotes an informal neighbourhood watch, increases biodiversity and enhances the visual and social environment. It also works the other way: pledges of fast track funding at the end of 1999 from the Federal and Provincial governments will assist Winnipeg with its efforts to repair dilapidated housing stock in older neighbourhoods by providing community groups with funding to rebuild neighbourhoods. The program is in response to vandalism and arson but aims to support grassroots community initiatives including community gardens.

Jobs for urban farmers are the result of adaptation, experimentation, resource efficiency, integration, marketing and entrepreneurship. Local production can stimulate the local economy. Growing Prospects Inc. provides a good example of this with the development of an under-utilized building site into a thriving and prosperous business enterprise, whilst training youths to be employable in today's job market. As a result the local economy is stimulated and taxpayer money is saved on welfare and unemployment insurance. At the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, many production, construction and maintenance personnel will benefit financially from the retrofit and installation of the green roof. There is potential for cost recovery in reduced runoff, reduced waste collection and management costs. CIER's composting toilets demonstrate how considerable quantities of a valuable resource such as water can be saved and waste product turned into a valuable, organic soil amendment for a garden.

Allotment gardens and community gardens have similar economic impact. With no business plan and little capital investment with the exception of seeds, tools and rent in the case of the allotments, participants of the Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens and the West Broadway Gardening Group have found a way to markedly supplement their food budgets and give to others through Winnipeg Harvest and community goodwill.

Urban nutrient recycling programs may lower both farm operating costs and food prices for the consumer. GPI recycles their nutrient solution; keeping costs down. The West Broadway Gardening Group produces and uses their own compost; thereby reducing the amount of organic waste going to landfill and keeping fertilization costs to a minimum.

Food sold locally is more affordable because it reduces transportation, packaging and marketing costs. City farmers like GPI who sell their produce at farmer's markets and to local restaurants are able to keep their prices competitive with major national and international suppliers.

The ability of community organizations to achieve long-term viability is often vulnerable due to insubstantial funding at the mercy of a given political agenda. Often funding is secured on a project-to-project basis. Volunteer contributions enable many programs to function. West Broadway Gardening Group depends on in-kind donations and volunteer labour to organize events and attend to administrative tasks. For greater economic viability, mixing revenue-generating activities within programs is being considered by more community-based groups who see responsible businesses as logical financial partners. Many urban agricultural organizations are involved with coalitions and networks, often taking part in co-operative projects established by public-private partnerships on national and local levels. As illustrated by GPI and CIER, many grass root groups, farmers' associations, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities and the business community work with local and national government. Manitoba Hydro Allotment Gardens have no formal economic partnerships except land provision which has certain and assured tenure. They operate the gardens on the basis of a modest, annual leasing fee paid to Manitoba Hydro.

Social Manifestations

Social benefits of urban agriculture include food security, improved nutritional status, leisure, education, community cohesion and civic well-being and health. As the case studies indicate, urban agriculture is a complex activity that thrives with the functioning of diverse partnerships between the gardeners and their community. Urban agriculture within the City of Winnipeg is practiced primarily for social development rather than for ecological or economic reasons. There is a strong social element to all of the case studies, particularly the community garden.

Horticulture, nutrition and environmental studies have been integrated into many curricula in Canada. Almost all of the non-governmental and community-based organizations linked to food security issues offer resources, information and educational opportunities to the public. These include skill development programs for water conservation techniques, planting, seed-saving and composting/bioremediation awareness. Many groups work within coalitions and networks, providing greater resources, advocacy and broader perspectives for programs such as organizing 'Seedy Saturdays,' community garden tours, displays at agriculture fairs, building gardening resource centres, having potlucks, or spearheading food production/distribution round tables. The primary mandate of CIER and GPI is education and training through food production. WBGG also has a strong educational component.

Organized local food production is often affiliated with charitable organizations that work within the community providing food access, community kitchens and nutritional education courses. Many community gardens and some allotments contribute to Winnipeg Harvest and community kitchens; promoting goodwill, localized food production and subsidizing lower income food budgets. Winnipeg Harvest's 'Food Access Program' does not rent plots but does receive produce from their Grow-A-Row program. In 1999 they received 122,000 lb. of produce (Michalski, 2000). Much of that produce was produced by Riverview Gardening Society Plots, school programs and private individuals. At GPI education and job training encourages the production of fresh herbs that increases the ability of the organization to donate monies towards inner-city youth-related charities.

Community and allotment gardens are generally composed of people who garden together on an informal basis. There is often a politicized element to many community groups in regards to a social justice, education and local food security perspective. This is particularly evident in the WBGG's case, who celebrate cultural and spiritual diversity, hosting educational workshops and social events to promote neighbourhood cohesiveness and local food production. The Manitoba Hydro Allotment Garden has a strong social component - particularly for seniors, who devote a great deal of time in the gardens chatting with other participants and exchanging gardening tips. However, unlike the WBGG, the MHAG does not promote education, charity-related activities or have a political mandate.

Healthy, fresh and nutritious food is the product of urban agriculture. GPI is investigating ways of integrating a hydroponics system in northern communities for year-round vegetables. Community kitchens planned by the WBGG and Nine Circles will provide canning equipment necessary for people to enjoy their own produce throughout the winter.

It is the social aspect of the gardens that produces a healthy community by promoting interaction between neighbours and generating civic pride. Because gardening is a day-long activity with many participants, it also helps to provide a eye on the street and feeling of safety in neighbourhoods as illustrated by the WBGG and the MHAG. One of the most important social aspects of urban agriculture however is that it provides the opportunity for seniors, youth and the under-employed to work together and learn from one another; transgressing social barriers and building understanding and co-operation.

Ecological Manifestations

The ecological benefits of urban agriculture include improved hydrology (reduced run-off), air and soil quality, biodiversity and energy-savings through local production. Canadian municipalities have initiated a number of programs which directly address organic gardening courses and waste reduction techniques and nutrient application. Many workshops and pilot projects involve introducing people to 'triple-bin' composting and vermiculture. Occasionally pilot programs and educational objectives are combined to, for example, focus on improving the efficiency of organic and inorganic nutrient sources in various soil management schemes or testing for soil toxin levels.

As demonstrated by each case study but particularly by the greenhouse/hydroponics case study (3.2), urban agriculture can complement food supplies from other sources and liberate rural resources for other agricultural uses and markets. With the amount of produce from one Manitoba Hydro allotment, many of the participants need not buy fresh produce all summer; having so much that they give it away to neighbours, who also have little need to purchase fresh produce.

Energy savings include the reduction of the amount of artificial fertilizer required while maintaining the organic content of soil which in turn can reduce the potential for agriculture-related land and water pollution and help maintain and stabilize soils against erosion. It also means a reduction of food transportation costs in terms of fossil fuel consumption and reduces energy associated with manufacturing and distributing artificial fertilizers; conserving energy, lowering CO2 emissions and extending the life of phosphate mines. Growing Prospects Inc. is quickly becoming a reliable local, year-round supplier of cut herbs to restaurants, caterers and food brokers, eliminating much of the reliance on fresh herbs imported from distant areas.

Another factor shared by the four case studies is their use of lost urban space. As explored in the GPI case study, hydroponics systems are often used as a greenhouse technology. With soil-less agricultural production in a controlled environment that replaces water with fertilized mist it is possible to grow food in a city in a structure that accommodates agricultural production. The WBGG demonstrates how successful the reuse of a vacant lot in part of Winnipeg's inner-city can be. With the installation of their rooftop garden, the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources hopes to encourage other groups to see how rooftops can utilize lost urban space and have the potential to ameliorate the urban island effect/artificial heat generation through the use of vegetation. The MHAG are clearly a productive and affordable use of rights-of-way that would otherwise lie unused and under-appreciated.

Many of urban agricultural activities; particularly those demonstrated by the West Broadway Gardening Group and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, use conservation techniques including composting, rain catching systems and organic cropping practices. Both groups promote conservational education through demonstrations and workshops (WBGG) and formal learning (CIER). These areas of conservation are inexpensive, ecologically friendly forms of reducing wasted resources and have the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of organic matter and nutrients currently put into landfill or contributing to ground and surface pollution. GPI recycles their nutrient solution and uses integrated pest management to maintain the chemical-free integrity of their crops.

Many modest acts can contribute to sustainability. Traditional agricultural systems typically enhance genetic diversity through well-established cultural practices. Both CIER and WBGG promote heritage seed saving, thereby keeping non-genetically modified seed for future generations and contribution to an area's plant species and wildlife biodiversity.

The case study projects demonstrate similar green philosophies and similar social components. The selected projects illustrate that for their survival and support, urban agricultural activities need to develop a political position and organizational effectiveness. Despite focused and active urban agricultural activity with a variety of partnerships occurring in Winnipeg, the city does not yet have a cohesive urban agricultural movement through which it could be more effective in developing funding and general support.


Urban agriculturists are a creative, resourceful and dedicated group of people. Most urban food production is the result of hard work and the imaginative efforts of local residents. What urban farmers have achieved and what they pursue - despite minimal support - is a resounding tribute to human ingenuity. With or without support they will continue to garden - either out of necessity or out of the sheer joy of it. It would be better to recognize, support and direct their contributions to sustainable communities than to ignore them, or worse, deliberately undermine them.

To establish a more sustainable network of land, people and resources, long term goals with greater regard for environmental considerations and approaches towards sustainable, productive urban development are needed. Urban agriculture deserves to be recognized as an essential component of broader development strategies aimed at urban food security and nutrition, poverty, income generation, waste management and resource conservation, public education and land-use, environmental improvement and community development. For urban agriculture to flourish, community groups (gardening associations, food banks, food distribution organizations, grass roots economic interest groups), governments (planners and all levels of government), and professionals (in particular, landscape architects) have the opportunity to address a number of existing and emerging challenges such as issues of food access, production, distribution and sustainability, recognizing problems that challenge full urban agricultural participation. People from all walks of life could have a role in the creation of urban agricultural initiatives.

There is opportunity for Community Groups:

There is opportunity for Government:

As noted in the conclusion, despite focused and active urban agricultural activity with a variety of partnerships, Winnipeg does not have a cohesive urban agricultural movement which may prove to be more effective in terms of funding and general support. This is true for all of Canada. Although it remains to be seen whether formalized urban agriculture would be beneficial to its expansion, promotion and fiscal situation (it may be that bureaucratic procedure and politics would stifle a predominantly grassroots type approach) what may be necessary for the continued acceptance and expansion of urban agriculture may be a Canadian Urban Agriculture Advocacy Group. A national organization could network and facilitate connections between individuals and communities, provide education, skill and technology transfer, resources, fiscal incentive, marketing mechanisms and a political voice for urban agriculture within Canada and act as a liaison with international groups and professional disciplines to strengthen institutional capacity: to gain agreement on national strategies for poverty alleviation, food security, agricultural production, employment and income generation, public health, sanitation and environmental protection. Projects could include retrofitting existing development projects or designing new ones with urban agricultural components, identifying models of organization for urban agriculture, policy, programming and global networks of expertise through research and university alliances. The one drawback to such an organization however, is that it can be a high-risk strategy because different facets of urban agriculture such as community gardening could get lost in an over-all agenda setting. If individual groups have strong commitment, a body such as a Canadian Urban Agriculture Advocacy Group could be very beneficial to all involved. For example, opportunities exist for integration of organic waste into urban agricultural initiatives and forming partnerships between urban agricultural interest groups such as a national association for water conservation or hydroponics practices to combine research and practical information. A national organization would be a forum for relevant professional organizations such as landscape architects to network and exchange ideas.

There is opportunity for Professionals (landscape architects in particular):

The findings suggest that almost everyone in a community could have a role in creating successful urban agricultural initiatives. The fuller role that urban agricultural organizations may play in increased food security, ecological responsibility and the nature of communities in Canada and the role a centralized organization could have for potential funding, resource access, information exchange and technological support remains to be seen. By all accounts productive, edible landscapes have strong potential to promote healthy cities as citizens, government and professionals rethink current food production practices and what they consider to be aesthetic landscapes.

The examination of the four Winnipeg case studies in Chapter Three and coming to appreciate their important role in the creation of physically, economically, socially and ecologically sustainable cities has been an inspiration to me as a citizen and as a student of landscape architecture to promote urban agriculture. The role of landscape architect as facilitator, consultant, designer and participant in all forms of urban agriculture is a means to further develop the profession and strengthen its contribution socially and ecologically to the quality of cities and their landscapes into the twenty first century.

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Revised March 30, 2009

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture