Growing Food in the City

When you begin to take notice of just how much unused green space there is in a city, the possibilities for growing local food become endless. Madeleine Maltby has secured five residential plots in Ottawa’s west end for growing organic vegetables in for her pilot season of urban farming. 

Growing food is Madeleine’s passion. After working on a variety of organic farms she decided to bring the farm into the urban landscape of her hometown. Last November Madeleine Maltby took part in the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training program to inspire and help create her urban farming project, Britannia Backyard Edibles.

By taking part in the IMPACT! Training program, Madeleine was able to find resources available to help kick start her project. As start-up costs are high for beginning farmers, funding was needed to help cover some of the initial costs. In April of this year, Madeleine was awarded a grant from the JustChange foundation! JustChange is a group of individuals who put our money where our mouths are by pooling funds to support great ideas. A few of Madeline’s responses to JustChange’s questions about her project are included below. This grant helped with the purchasing of necessary equipment needed for starting up the growing season.

As the temperatures begin to warm, Britannia Backyard Edibles is in full force prepping garden beds which will soon be planted with thousands of tiny seeds. This season Madeleine will be providing CSA shares to 10 families in the community. To learn more about Britannia Backyard Edibles and follow along as the growing season progresses please check out our facebook and twitter pages.

JustChange: What problem are you trying to solve?
Madeline: “In today's society much of the food we consume is shipped thousands of miles away and dependent on an unsustainable petroleum based system which in the long term damages the environment, food security, local economies and ultimately human lives. As oil and food prices continue to increase there needs to be a shift from the centralized corporate controlled global food system to a more local and sustainable system.”

JustChange: How are you going to solve the problem?
Madeline: "Britannia Backyard Edibles grows and supplies fresh, locally and organically grown market vegetables through Community Supported Agriculture and other direct to consumer markets. The business operates in a sustainable manner using low carbon farming practices to provide a food source within the community for the community."

JustChange: How is your idea innovative?
Madeline: “Britannia Backyard Edibles is an Ottawa based start-up urban farming enterprise set to launch in Spring 2015. Different from your typical farm in the sense that we grow on land that we do not own, the farm consists of residential sub-acre plots chosen within the neighbourhood of Britannia Village and surrounding communities. The idea of turning backyards into productive food gardens is nothing new but as more and more urban dwellers are seeking locally grown food, "extreme" urban farming is rising in demand. Since buying land and having the capital needed to run a farming operation are major barriers to entry for young aspiring farmers, the backyard urban farming model provides a gateway for new methods of food production and brings the farm into an urban landscape and closer to the market. Britannia Backyard Edibles will use SPIN (Small Plot INtensive) farming techniques to grow maximum production in small spaces while practicing land tenure to ensure sustainability. While the project is starting small in it's first season, following a motto of "a neighbourhood feeding a neighbourhood," there is increasing potential to expand the operation to other neighbourhoods in the West end of Ottawa and beyond.”

JustChange: How will your initiative make a lasting difference (social or environmental) in Ottawa?
Madeline: “I believe that change starts at the community level. Britannia Backyard Edibles will not only provide a healthy and sustainable food source to neighbourhoods within Ottawa but also foster a sense of community around food and connect residents to natural food systems, local economies and each other. There is an increasing demand for transparency of how and where our food is grown and I believe Britannia Backyard Edibles can help narrow the gap between people and their food right here in Ottawa.”

JustChange: What makes you and/or your team the people to lead this idea?
Madeline: “Growing food is my passion. After traveling and working on a variety of organic vegetable farms I have chosen to return to my hometown and start a farm of my own. I believe I have the necessary growing experience for operating a small commercial farm, but also the drive and determination to put Britannia Backyard Edibles into action. Over the last year I have connected with so many amazing people in the community of Britannia Village and the interest around the project has been astounding.”

JustChange: What are your funding/financing sources?
Madeline: “Total start-up costs for the first season of Britannia Backyard Edibles have been estimated at $5000. I have been contributing my own savings towards the business as well as funds raised from a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.”

To learn more about the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training and to apply for an upcoming session, please visit The next session is happening in London, from November 6th to 8th. Apply today to take your sustainability journey to the next level!