Urban Roots, a London, Ontario startup, is dedicated to growing food in downtown areas without access to fresh food. Heather Barnes and Graham Bracken, two of the founders, were inspired by the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI). MUFI is a nonprofit organization that seeks to engage members of the Michigan community in sustainable agriculture. Its main focus is the redevelopment of a two-square-block area in Detroit’s North End, which is positioned as an epicenter of urban agriculture. Totaling about three acres, the urban ‘agrihood’ features a two-acre urban garden, a 200-tree fruit orchard, a children’s sensory garden, and more. Annually, the urban garden provides fresh, free produce to about 2,000 households within two square miles of the farm.
“They grow a lot of food organically and they funnel it right back into the community,” says Barnes. “While we were there people walked up [to the urban farm] and they walked away with food.”
Urban Roots plans to use vacant city spaces to produce food, and strengthen community connections. Incorporating organic growing practices and using local food waste for compost, they hope to find volunteer workers from Western University, pointing out that the majority of volunteers at MUFI come from local universities. Urban Roots is attempting to raise the initial funds on GoFundMe for startup costs, property, seeds, and growing supplies. They are also pursuing grant opportunities and anticipate support from members of the online Forest City Family, London business people who support a movement to local.
“We’re going to be working with people to fill a need, whatever that need is,” says Jeremy Horrell, one of the founders.