Just imagine - a city where gravel lots and rooftops overflow with greenery and life, where the veggies on your dish from your favourite restaurant were picked only minutes before, and delivered by bike. The great news is that you don't have to just imagine it, because Chris Hildreth, founder and CEO of TOPSOIL, a FED Growing Partner, is doing just that.
One of Victoria's first farm-to-table urban agricultural businesses, TOPSOIL began with a pilot garden project back in 2015; Hildreth installed 50 containers on a rooftop at the Fort Commons to grow food for local restaurants nearby. This year, they have converted 20,000 square feet of underutilized urban space at Dockside Green into a productive food growing area and now deliver fresh produce to 10 restaurants in Victoria less than an hour after picking.
It is estimated that by 2050, 80% of the world's population will be living in cities. With the vast majority of our agricultural land already in use, we will need to come up with innovative ways to move forward and expand food production and agriculture. As the global food system continues to come under increasing strain, people around the world have a desire to reconnect with and actively participate in food production, and growing food in urban areas could be an effective solution. As TOPSOIL puts it, urban agriculture is "a revolutionary way to provide food that’s healthier for us, cares for the environment and just simply tastes better,” also contributing to cleaner air and transforming dull areas into living, vibrant spaces.
Listed as 'Top 10 to Watch in 2018' by Douglas Magazine, Hildreth has been able to make tremendous progress in the short time TOPSOIL has been around. They currently deliver over 200 servings of 12 crop varieties each week - last year alone, they were able to grow 2.7 tonnes of produce. They also deliver the produce via either bike or by walking to reduce their carbon emissions (that's over 400 km of biking per year!).
Hildreth's goal for the coming years is "to improve every aspect of our current industrialized food system from production, packaging, transport, distribution and waste," by transforming as many vacant areas in our cities as possible into green spaces that provides local restaurants with fresh produce. He holds workshops at the University of Victoria to help others start their own initiatives and has developed award-winning geotextile containers that make these gardens easy to set up and move around - making this possibility more accessible for almost anyone.
If you'd like to check out the stunning space at Dockside Green, you can sign up for our Bike Tour here; check out their on-site market running each Monday and Wednesday from 12 - 3 pm, or Friday from 1- 6 pm until September 1st!