Diverse harvest for budding farmers

October 13, 2008 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

The ethnic market has been something I’ve been looking at for awhile. It’s definitely a key expansion ground if you want to keep your farm or urban farm on the cutting edge of the food revolution. After all, immigrants will be making up most of the population growth in much of the nation.

What sort of ethnic vegetables could we grow on urban land (likely the fast growing sorts)? Or in a hoophouse or greenhouse?

Now all we need is to be able to grow some high protein, highly nutritious grains like amaranth and teff on a large yet sustainable scale. Perhaps on 20 acre farms? Is it time for a food staples revolution? Maybe combine it with beans and peas and lentils?

What do you think? What else should we be growing in the GTA, the Greenbelt or Ontario?


Diverse harvest for budding farmers



Bob Baloch, wife Farida, son Ali, 6, and daughter Hirra, 8, pick the last of their crop Oct. 11, 2008 on their 0.2-hectare plot at the McVean Farm in Brampton.


A few crops grown at the McVean Incubator Farm:

OKRA: This fuzzy green vegetable is known for its seedy and slimy interior, and grows five to 17 centimetres long. A member of the cotton family, okra was originally discovered in Ethiopia in the 12th century.

EGGPLANT: The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family native to India. The large, deep purple eggplant – sometimes called Italian eggplant – is commonly found in Ontario grocery stores.

BITTER GOURD: Also known as bitter melon, bitter gourd thrives in hot climates and is said to be an acquired taste. It is green and bumpy, like a wrinkled cucumber.

Immigrants learn basics of growing crops here; others benefit with fresh callaloo, okra, garlic

October 13, 2008
Nicole Baute
Anan Lololi shows off rows of callaloo growing in a Brampton field. The plants are closely shorn, with leaves that look like spinach, but bigger.

“They call it pigweed … but it is one of the most popular foods in the Caribbean,” Lololi says, still incredulous at the inglorious name after living in Canada for almost 30 years.

Lololi, who is originally from Guyana, likes to sauté his callaloo in garlic and olive oil.

“There definitely is a market for it, you know? We’re importing callaloo from Jamaica and the Philippines and it grows wild here.”

Callaloo is just one of the crops being grown by the non-profit Afri-Can FoodBasket and other groups at the McVean Farm. The new 35-acre incubator farm is owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and rented to a Guelph-based not-for-profit organization called FarmStart, which teaches new farmers the agricultural basics and rents them land and equipment at steep discounts.

There are common crops at McVean – tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and strawberries – but also callaloo, okra, chiles, bitter gourds and “dragon hot” Indian peppers. Some of these items are rare in Ontario fields, but pair the ethnic diversity of the GTA with the local food movement – and add new Canadians with agricultural ambitions – and they begin to poke out of the soil.

This Thanksgiving weekend the first harvest at McVean drew to a close as the budding farmers picked the last of their crops and began to prepare the land for winter.

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Entry filed under: Agriculture, economics, Ethnic, Food, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Greenbelt and Development? Oxymoron? Rooftop Greenhouses

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