The WE Farm - a food system vision for 2050
To create shared regenerative farms near urban centres that offer agricultural learning experiences and connection in a sharing community.
A vision of urban food forest
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Sarah Thomson, CEO of Heal Terra Inc.
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Halton region (part of the Greater Toronto Region), Ontario, Canada
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
We have selected the Halton Region for a number of reasons:
1. It is within easy commute to Toronto and we hope to pull people out from the city to experience the local ecosystem, learn about regenerative agriculture and take part in our art and environmental workshops.
2. The community is disengaged with many residents commuting to Toronto it is in need of a central hub for the community to learn, grow and share ideas.
3. There are few organizations providing the arts and environmental workshops we will offer at the location.
4. There are monocrop farms in the area and it is our hope that we can convince farmers to use regenerative farming techniques rather than the commercial farming methods they are currently using.
5. The close proximity to Toronto will allow us to connect with urban residents looking to alter their lives and become regenerative in their approach.
I have lived both in the Halton region (10 + years) and Toronto (10+) years and know the area well. The potential for change is significant as is the need for agricultural education and community. I have considerable relationships with local farmers and within the city of Toronto that will allow us to bring about the change needed for our vision to succeed.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada with just over 6 million people. It is multicultural and celebrates in its diversity. But there is a large divide between what is seen as the downtown elites and suburban residents. Heal Terra and The We Farm will be located in the Halton region, which is just beyond what is considered Toronto suburbs. Halton has its own community, although many residents commute daily into the city and this fractures the community with few social hubs for residents to congregate. Local schools and a weakening church system provide the only real areas for residents to connect. There is a need for a central hub and The We Farm will provide it with a place for residents to meet, connect and share ideas
The area is made up of large commercial monocrop farms and small equestrian hobby farms. There are a few organic farms and mushroom farming produces the highest gross farm receipts in Halton Region.
Halton is also home to a number of farm businesses that offer agri-tourism activities.
The agriculture and food sector is responsible for approximately 24 percent of employment in the region and it includes horticulture and equine sub sectors. The demographic breakdown shows that 49 % of the population is between 25-30 years of age, with 29% between 50-65 years of age and 22% over 65 years of age.
The diets of the region are typical of most of Canada with traditional breakfast foods of cooked eggs, fried pork sausages or bacon, fried or deep-fried potatoes, toasted bread, pancakes (or egg-battered French Toast) and syrup, cereals, or hot oatmeal. A traditional lunch is comprised of sandwiches, soups, or salads. Tim Hortons is an iconic Canadian fast food brand that have huge market share in rural centres with Halton having over 20 locations. The Tim Hortons brand has become part of the national identity impacting even the language with a "medium regular double double" meaning medium cup of coffee with one milk and two sugars.
Dinner is almost always the largest and most well-prepared meal and will usually feature a large meat entrée of some sort, such as chicken breast, steak, pork chop, hamburger, or ground beef, cooked vegetables (most commonly carrots, peas, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, or corn), and a grain or starch-based “side” such as rice, pasta, potatoes, or bread. Snacks and sweets add to this protein, starch and dairy diet (and once again the Tim Horton donut exemplifies the typical diet) The impact of these traditional meals is an increase in heart disease, diabetes and other diet related illnesses. But there is a growing movement toward a healthier local food diet that we hope to encourage and promote.
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
The Challenges are:
1 Local intensive commercial farming destroys topsoil and produces less nutritious food.
2. Urban residents make up 55% of world's population but they have lost connection with the natural ecosystems and their food production. There are 6 million people in Toronto with a lack of connection to the natural environment - this propels consumerist attitudes that pollute and destroy our natural ecosystems.
3. Demand for cheap easy fast food pushes commercial monocrop farms to produce more wheat, corn and other starch based crops using more pesticides and fertilizers that further destroy soil health
4. The area lacks a sense of community with many residents commuting into the city daily.
5. The local planning policy separates agriculture from residential limiting the opportunity for urban residents to experience natural ecosystems, and participate in agricultural experiences
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Imagine a world where people are connected to their food production, where regenerative design (a whole system approach) shapes the way people have chosen to live. Where the sense of community, ingenuity and creativity have contributed to building strong local economies. Now imagine how to get there from where we are today. Our vision is The “WE Farm” movement
Heal Terra Inc will create shared farm space. The WE Farm will offer urban residents the opportunity to rent a small home on a shared farm. They will learn about regenerative agriculture and how to grow and produce their own food. They will share in the regenerative farm community . The WE Farm will work as a local hub, offering the local community and the larger urban community everything from art lessons, to permaculture courses. Through shared experiences the bonds of community can grow.
WE Farm will collaborate with local food organizations and promote regenerative agriculture education. Our aim is to gain greater public awareness on how natural ecosystems work. The WE Farm will use regenerative agriculture design to regenerate soil health and cause behavior change through shared experiences
We Farm will create opportunities for education and collaboration: Weekly markets, kids art and agriculture camps, learning workshops for adults, and unique opportunities to access shared experiences
WE Farms will work to educate local planning authorities on the importance of a regenerative approach to all planning.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
What the world will look like if we succeed...
Toronto would be turned into a forest city designed around plants and trees. Clean air and bicycles would replace smog and automobiles. Transit systems would be below ground (where they wouldn’t damage plant growth) and rivers would be above ground where they can contribute to natural ecosystems. The halton region would be a place made up of small local farmers, educators, craftspeople, thinkers and inventors.
A regenerative approach to living would encourage people to contribute to their community and a sharing economy would develop. Planning departments would allow housing on farm land and farm land in housing areas, they would require completely environmental low impact design. Parks would be food forests with sheep, goats and chickens grazing alongside deer and other wildlife.
We imagine a world where subdivisions surrounding food forest cities would be transformed into farm communities, the lawns and streets replaced with cycling paths and vegetable gardens. Larger farms surrounding the cities would offer shared farm spaces to urban dwellers who lacked the space to farm in their home so that all people would be included in regenerating the natural ecosystems we depend on.
Shared farm spaces will create the regenerative learning hubs needed to transform the toxic habits of consumers today into regenerative choices made by informed community builders.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
See food system vision pdf document attached.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?