Making a living in their backyards

Scarborough farmers use a delivery service to sell their fruits and veggies

Scarborough residents are looking closer to home for fresh fruits and vegetables — literally in their backyards.

Small farmers are growing everything from apples to carrots that are 100 per cent organic. They sell their produce in startup markets through a box delivery service.

Fresh City Farming, based in Downsview Park, was founded by Ran Goel. The company delivers boxes of organic food grown by urban farmers right to your door. Goel believes organic produce grown in the city is not only the healthiest, but the most honest.

“With urban farming, you get to meet the farmers and learn about the environmental and social impact of food and why organic is important,” Goel says.

Eighty per cent of Fresh City Farming’s food is grown in southern Ontario. At least 80 per cent of produce at major grocery stores is imported, and their definition of local is often “from Canada,” Goel says.

“So instead of telling someone to eat more veggies, they see why it tastes so good to something that was just harvested.”

Goel says there are many immigrant families in Scarborough who have been growing food in their backyards for decades simply because it was a way of life in their native countries.

Amy Cheung is the owner and head farmer of Red Pocket Farm in Scarborough. This is her first year with City Fresh Farming, but farming became her passion 10 years ago when she was in Central America, she says.

In 2003, Cheung was a volunteer in a farming village in Costa Rica. It was there she learned how to grow food and gained her belief in food education.

Urban farming has a long history in Rouge Park with the Reesor family farming on the property since 1804. Several farms are located in the park with farmers being granted 20–25 year leases. However, the Reesor family lost 120 of its 800 acres due to tree planting by Parks Canada. This is a common case with large plot urban farms across the country.

The Reesor Family Farm located in Rouge Park (pic_farm_city)

Goel and his farmers didn’t turn to farming as a last resort, he says.

Before founding Fresh City, Goel was an investment lawyer in New York. He holds a business degree from the Schulich School of Business at York University, a master’s degree in political economy from the London School of Economics and a law degree from the University of Toronto.

Farmers who sell with Fresh City are serious entrepreneurs who strive for a healthier community, Goel says.