Articles, Blog

Growing Food in the City – Urban Rooftop Farm in Downtown Toronto

November 18, 2019

>>ARLENE: we are at a quarter-acre rooftop farm at
Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. We produce ten thousand pounds of food
each year that goes to the farmers’ market and to our CSA customers and it’s
distributed to the food room as well which is where students can get food for
free. When we started the farm we weren’t sure what we could grow on a roof so we
started by growing a little bit of everything and we found that there
wasn’t anything we couldn’t grow. Corn, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes…we tried it all and everything was gorgeous but we’ve moved toward crops that are higher
value and that make more sense in a small confined space so we’re trying to
grow things that have a lot of different successions or
a continual harvest so we do tomatoes, peas, beans, salad greens, radishes, carrots, beets… [Ambient Noise] This green roof was built as part of the original infrastructure of the
building in 2004 and it was planted with daylilies and it was left standing until
2013 when Ryerson’s student-initiated garden group converted it into a farm so
the soil that was here when we arrived was actually really beautiful it was a
really lightweight engineered soil that was high in organic matter. One of the
advantages of having a soil that is higher in organic matter is that it
retains water really well so we actually only water once a week and we we use a
drip tape which is great because it reduces evaporation so we turn on the
drip tape once a week and we leave it on for 24 to 48 hours which kind of mimics
a heavy storm, which the plants love and what we do is we check the weather
if there’s a storm coming we don’t water so that way we can make sure that we’re
catching the most amount of rainwater possible so that we’re contributing to
stormwater management. Water is a big part of green roof technology so the
professors who were instrumental in including a green roof on this building
were actually instrumental in creating the city of Toronto’s bylaw that all new
buildings that are over a certain size have to include a green roof. [Ambient Noise] This project began as a student
initiative with the mission to grow food on campus and create opportunities for
people to learn about how to grow food. Urban agriculture crosses over a number
of different disciplines so that’s one of the things that makes this project
really interesting so we have nutrition students, architecture, engineering,
environmental studies, urban planning, and even business students are attracted to
urban agriculture for a lot of reasons so that’s one of the things that
makes it really fun.>>Jayne: we do a 10-week Ecological Market Garden Program and it’s a 10-week program that starts in the spring and the idea is that the
participants get to see the farm from the very beginnings in the pre-greenhouse up until planting it in the field so it takes place from
mid-March to the end of May so we’re actually in the last two weeks of that
right now and so that course involves a field
session for kind of hands-on experiential learning which we think is
really key to learning about farming and also a classroom session to complement
the training in the field to do a bit more of the technical background.>>Saba: I’ve always been into sort of gardening, I have a pretty large lot out in
Scarborough so I used to do it a little bit with my dad and then as I got older
I still enjoyed doing in and then I started looking around Ryerson to see if
there were any opportunities and we actually have a farm so I was like okay I need to get involved with that and I started off with the training
program and I’ve learned so much from it and it’s actually made me way more
interested in science and I’ve never taken science in high school and now
I’m back in high school because I want to like I want to build it up and see
where it goes. [Ambient Noise]>>ARLENE: rooftop farming companies that aim to
build a farm on an existing roof usually source older industrial buildings,
maybe in an industrial neighbourhood. Older buildings that were built before
the 1950s tend to have the load-bearing capacity to support the extra weight of
a rooftop farm. Here in Toronto we have a green roof bylaw so all new buildings
that are over a certain size have to include a green roof so that means that
green roofs are now part of our urban infrastructure in Toronto so people are
asking the question: “are we gonna see more food being grown on roofs now that
it’s part of the infrastructure of our buildings?” and I do believe that rooftop
farming could be a viable option for producing food for the local community.
It’s expensive and it takes a lot of organization to make a rooftop a
place where food can be grown but the added value is that people get to spend
time on the farm and participate in growing the food that they eat and learn
how to grow food so even even the small impact that we’re making in producing
food in the city could have huge repercussions because people have
backyards, and balconies, and their own roofs where they’re taking what they
learn here and trying it somewhere else and we have people come visit from other
universities who want to replicate the project. When people stand on the farm
and look out at the cityscape they start to see roofs and they go: “well, what
about that roof, could we be growing food on that roof?” so I do believe that this
project could be replicated and we’re doing a really thorough job of writing
down everything we do so that we can share some of what we’re learning here
about what grows best, and how to manage a rooftop farm. [Inspiring Music Playing] Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel, we post a new video every single week about people trying all
sorts of different alternative lifestyles.


  • Reply família natureza Alves February 10, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Achei que só tinha eu de brasileiro no seu canal kkkk mas tem uma galera aqui.parabens parcero

  • Reply Van Vida February 10, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Brilliant and so inspiring

  • Reply marcel j February 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Very cool

  • Reply venley28 February 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    5:17 😳

  • Reply Howard Brooks February 10, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    This Will happen more and more as wages stagnate and inflation eats away remaining purchasing power, besides that people are making health decisions of growing their own food to have pesticide and herbicide free food .

  • Reply debbie boring February 10, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks for the video I am so glad to see more and more of these options being worked on in many areas.

  • Reply Brittaney Mitchell February 10, 2019 at 5:49 pm


  • Reply J. C. February 10, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    This is very cool, but you could probably get ten times the yield using virtical planters on some of them. Lettuce doesn't even need soil.

  • Reply ٰ ٰ February 10, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    tower crane

  • Reply Amanda Nicole February 10, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Sounds awesome!

  • Reply SkyOnFyre 2020 February 10, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Great video.everyone should be part of a community garden or atleast grow some of their own chemical free food. 🌿💚

  • Reply Geriann Roth February 10, 2019 at 5:59 pm


  • Reply 1 11 February 10, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Great project. Good healthy food.

  • Reply Jacqueline Murdoch February 10, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    Pretty vague about building that can have roof gardens? What age? What size?

  • Reply Paulette Frantz February 10, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Inspiring video. 🤗

  • Reply Juber777 February 10, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    "high yield" what?, corn isn't a high enough yield? And you didn't say potatoes for that I will not like the video
    …still a good start for "small" scale farming

  • Reply katnip2u February 10, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Holy cow, I'm in Toronto and I had no idea this was going on! So great and encouraging! I'll be looking into this more now. BTW, my condo building management has let a few of us garden around our building for some 5 years now (complementing other professional lanscaping), so .. there is hope in urban settings for many edible gardens to pop up! However, we do have issues with rascal squirrels and raccoons, and STUPID inconsiderate tenants, who let their dogs relieve themselves in our garden beds .. very discouraging to continue growing greens and herbs anymore (tomatoes seem to be still fine and the dogs don't seem to go to zucchini and squash bushes, but ..) after you witness this kind of behaviour .. ..
    Rooftop gardening would solve the critter problems, that's for sure!

  • Reply Kayla Albers February 10, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    This is incredible!

  • Reply Lisa Lynn February 10, 2019 at 6:40 pm


  • Reply Strylover February 10, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Nice video inspiring.

  • Reply Gardeners' Farmacy February 10, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I sell Worm Castings. 100% organic. Certified as such. If anyone is interested, comment on my channel and I will reply so we can connect. I ship anywhere if you pay shipping.

  • Reply Andreas Gran February 10, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    We got this in sweden at the old harpors

  • Reply naya shams February 10, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    I am all for it.

  • Reply Family Buzz Connections February 10, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    What a great project! It looks like the beds are full size too. I wonder if there’s issue with the amount of sun due to the surrounding buildings. It will always be a great sight from those buildings.

  • Reply Rara Avis February 10, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    Say hello the future 🙂

  • Reply Permaculture Homestead February 11, 2019 at 12:41 am

    if we hope to have any type of future, permaculture and urban gardening will have to be a part of it.

  • Reply Derek Elliott February 11, 2019 at 1:42 am

    Green roof by-law – what a great idea. Good ol' Toronto. Very cool to see the garden with all the buildings behind it

  • Reply Cathy Lynn Pietranton February 11, 2019 at 3:06 am


  • Reply Luz Corrales February 11, 2019 at 3:38 am

    Love this!

  • Reply GEAUX FRUGAL February 11, 2019 at 4:51 am

    And all I say sounds like a question???????????

  • Reply Celeste Marie February 11, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Friendly heads up, I shared this video on fb and the thumbnail did not upload. This is such an amazing concept I hope my friends will be enticed to click the link purely by the title/my recommendation. Love your content keep up the great work!

  • Reply don0giorgio February 11, 2019 at 6:27 am

    What about air pollution in the f downtown???

  • Reply HayleyTief February 11, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    This is the kind of thing that gets me excited. So much you see on the news can be so depressing, but the knowledge that forward thinking ideas are being implemented is so uplifting. Thanks for the video! Maybe someone who sees it will be inspired to push for this in their city.

  • Reply joel1239871 February 11, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Very nice!

  • Reply Liliya's Garden Channel February 12, 2019 at 3:51 am

    This is really neat!!

  • Reply Andreina Rangel February 13, 2019 at 6:07 am

    a nice fad

  • Reply rayva1 February 13, 2019 at 7:45 am

    They’re doing this all over CA too.

  • Reply michaelcsutton February 13, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Brilliant. We need more of this.

  • Reply Mimi M. February 13, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    We need this everywhere ➕ used as PTSD therapy for new and old Canadians.
    Nature heals, food security heals, see what works in remote hills of China.
    Grow herbs healing mind and body

  • Reply Frank Garrett February 15, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    How much money these people must already have.

  • Reply Wade Kirby February 18, 2019 at 4:55 am

    Are their notes (about what grows well) accessible by the public?

  • Reply Kevin Davis February 19, 2019 at 2:29 am

    Good ideas

  • Reply Kodey Whitewolf February 20, 2019 at 11:27 am

    So glad to see people using availability space for growing food

  • Reply WowMarie February 21, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Yesss 😁

  • Reply German Antonio February 24, 2019 at 4:04 am

    How do you guys fund yourselves for urban farming?

  • Reply Kini Media Group February 24, 2019 at 8:29 am

    Back to the future!!! This is inevitable and I LOVE it! 👍👍👍

  • Reply Samir Akacha February 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    This is wonderful

  • Reply Bite the Bullet March 7, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    what a folly! growing plants on top of skyscrapers will never be a part of our new future. talk about a $10 tomato!

  • Reply J.R. Productions April 11, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Food will be the new money soon. Get into gardening ASAP, the dollar will be nothing after the upcoming collapse. Oh, and move OUT of the cities.

  • Reply Marie-Andrée Hould April 23, 2019 at 12:29 am

    This is amazing. It should be mandatory everywhere!

    What a great way to learn, to use the otherwise wasted space and to make sure that we have access to local produce.

    Would love to see this kind of project implemented in more cities!

  • Reply flemming engel June 8, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    city vegetables gardens

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