Small-plot farming puts new ‘spin’ on urban agriculture in Toronto
SPIN-Farming, an acronym for Small Plot INtensive farming, is the brainchild of Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen, who developed the concept over 20 years of farming on sub-acre urban farms around Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
By Sarah B. Hood
In business since 2008, Bob Baloch of The Fresh Veggies is one of this area’s most experienced SPIN farmers. “I was looking at 100 acres and spending $100 million,” he says. “I found out about SPIN-Farming, and it made perfect sense.” Beginning with a quarter acre, Baloch has expanded to five acres and sells through farmers’ market and even through Loblaw. However, it’s still only a part-time income.
“I tried to do it full-time, but it doesn’t pay enough,” he says. Nonetheless, “It gives me satisfaction that I have some income coming from it. The whole environment is changing; people are going back to buying from the local farmers. You have to work slowly, find out your best mix of what you can grow and what your customers like, and pick a few crops from that.”
A box program is the backbone of Fresh City Farms, which started planting in 2011. “The idea of creating a company that forges a for-profit model for city farming really appeals to me,” says founder and former investment lawyer Ran Goel. “People are advocating for better food simply by doing their jobs.”
Fresh City Farms plants about five acres, including space at Downsview Park and Black Creek Community Farm. “We have three full-time farm staff, and about an acre and a half is farmed by about 20 member farms who have access to a greenhouse, tools, and shared seed,” he says. “We help them find a market.”