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New local resource provides solutions for urban food production (7 photos)

Using backyard gardening, Leigh Taylor has cut his food budget by 75 per cent

Leigh Taylor is a local Guelph resident seeking an alternative solution to food production and consumption. He lives in the heart of the city, on a small piece of land that he calls his own, where 80 per cent of his food is grown and harvested.

When neighbours started asking questions, Taylor knew he needed to find a way for others in the community to access the information he had gathered.

Over a three year period, Taylor, with a group of community-minded organic farmers, gardeners, and designers have created an online database and resource.

Spaces2Grow was officially launched in March 2015 after a group of individuals realized many people had the desire to grow their own food, with little knowledge or resources to guide them. Development on the site began in 2012.

The people behind the project include Sebastian Ramirez and Bethany Klapwyk, who run Zócalo Organics, Mary Kate Gilbertson and Mike Craig, who run the Two Sisters River Urban Farm, Julia Grady of Barking Dog Studios, Zebra Spot Design and many others. 

“Spaces2Grow was conceived as a place that urban food growers could discover different places to grow their food,” explained Taylor.

The Spaces2Grow website is user-friendly, easy to navigate and consists of a library with over 10,000 facts that help urban farmers grow the right crops for their land.

Taylor said the website is a community resource that offers an automated process for discovering the right plants for your property, whether it’s a suburban backyard with little sun, or an acre of land.

“You create a map of your property with our tools, and it draws up the full range of crops that you can grow there,” said Taylor.

Taylor explained that he had his own challenges with his backyard, which is only 33 feet in width and 99 feet deep.  He also has a large walnut tree that covers much of his backyard with shade, and can be inhospitable for certain plants. With the tools provided on Spaces2Grow, Taylor has been able to find the right plants that will grow and thrive in his space.

“There are things you can grow that don’t need a lot of sun,” explained Taylor, who said that many have used their lack of backyard sun as an excuse for not growing their own food.

Not only does the website offer different types of plants, but it also offers different types of growing systems, including hydroponics, aquaponics, square foot boxes, and even homemade greenhouses. All the growing systems on the website can be found in Taylor’s own backyard.

Many are interested in the financial impact of growing your own food. Taylor shared that he has carefully tracked his budget for the last few years, and his current food production has cut his food budget by 75 per cent.

“The initial investment to set up the systems is substantial,” admitted Taylor. He also added that in his first year of urban farming he managed to break even, despite the costs of building the systems from scratch.

When asked what the reason or goal was for developing this online resource, Taylor said he wanted to provide a public service to others seeking alternative ways of consuming food, something he hadn't yet seen online.

There are also free applications on the website, and anyone can browse and research without paying the membership fee. The website also offers a free 60-day trial period, an annual Personal Home Membership ($25), and a Scholastic Membership ($60). The Scholastic Membership allows a teacher to create a unique login for each of their students, as well as interactive exercises for their students.

Find out more here.

Do you grow your own food? Let us know in the comments below!

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Brianna Bell

About the Author: Brianna Bell

Brianna Bell is a Guelph-based writer who focuses on events, small businesses, and community stories. In addition to GuelphToday, she has written for The Guelph Mercury and The Globe & Mail.
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