You are now in the main content area

About

Seven members of the Urban Farm team standing amid crops on the rooftop farm.

Important notice: In response to COVID-19 and delayed construction for safety upgrades on the rooftop farm, the Urban Farm has temporarily reduced its operations and cancelled programming until further notice.

The Ryerson Urban Farm operates productive growing spaces across the Ryerson University campus using spray-free, ecological methods. We offer educational programming to the public and engage with student and faculty researchers. Through these programs, we aim to build capacity for urban agriculture through production, research and engagement.

Rooftop farm

Our main production space is a quarter-acre rooftop farm located on the Andrew and Valerie Pringle Environmental Green Roof above the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre. The original green roof was built in 2004 and converted to a farm in 2014, designed in the traditional market garden style. The Urban Farm grows roughly 8,000 to 10,000 lbs. of produce annually.

Learn more about our produce.

Project history

The project was founded as a student initiative in 2011, under the name Rye’s HomeGrown. Under the mentorship of the Centre for Studies in Food Security and faculty across disciplines, the group worked with Facilities Management and Development to identify underutilized space that could be repurposed for food production, learning and engagement.

Milestones

2004 | The Andrew and Valerie Pringle Environmental Green Roof was built as part of the original design of the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre (ENG). It was planted with daylilies and named in honour of its founding donors.

2005 | Hitesh Doshi, professor of Architectural Science, was a principal investigator for a Ryerson report that initiates the City of Toronto to propose a Green Roof Bylaw. Report contributors also included Doug Banting, James Li and Paul Missios.

2009 | The City of Toronto was the first in North America to pass a bylaw requiring all new buildings over 2,000 square metres and above six storeys to include a green roof. Doshi became chair of the Technical Advisory Group for the City of Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw and consulted on municipal policies throughout the world. 

2010 | Nutrition and Food students Catherine Lung and Stephanie Nishi were inspired to grow food on campus after taking a first-year course. They surveyed students, staff and faculty with a mutual interest in creating food gardens on campus. They co-founded Rye’s HomeGrown (RHG) with support from the Centre for Studies in Food Security (CSFS).

2011 | The pedestrian pilot of Gould Street opened up space and funding support from Dean of Architecture Mohamed Lachemi. Lung assembled a team of volunteers, including Cindy Pham, and grew seedlings in the Architecture greenhouse and planted edible gardens throughout campus in collaboration with Garth Poppleton, Manager of Custodial Services and Groundskeeping. They created opportunities for experiential learning and research with guidance from an Advisory Committee*. 

2012 | Ryerson hosted the Urban Agriculture Summit organized by FoodShare, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and CSFS. Over 800 people attended tours, plenaries and sessions. During the summit, two compost systems were built on campus. RHG expanded operations to three gardens and hired Kim Fox with support from all the Deans to increase experiential learning opportunities. 

2013 | Poppleton invited Lung to launch a pilot project for the conversion of the Andrew and Valerie Pringle Environmental Green Roof into a rooftop farm. RHG hired a team to support the expansion, including Arlene Throness

2014 | The pilot project was successful and the rooftop farm was approved. Ryerson Eats’ Executive Chef Joshna Maharaj funded two part-time positions for Lung and Throness to complete the design and conversion of the green roof with a team of volunteers, including Pham. RHG joined the department of Food Services under University Business Services (UBS) and continued to operate out of the CSFS office with mentorship from the Advisory committee.*

2016 | Rye’s Homegrown transitioned to Ryerson Urban Farm (RUF) and became a department within UBS under the direction of Voula Cocolakis, Executive Director of University Business Services. The team expanded with Operations Coordinator Jayne Miles and a team of student staff, including Pham. Janice Winton, Vice-President of Administration and Operations funded a feasibility study to upgrade the ENG roof to increase capacity for production, research and engagement. Monica Contreras, Director of Design and Construction, designated green roof space for food production in the design of the new Daphne Cockwell Complex (DCC), initiating the first purpose-built rooftop farm established under the Toronto Green Roof Bylaw. 

2018 | Upgrades for the ENG roof were approved and funding was allocated by UBS. The farm was closed to the public to accommodate construction. 

2019 | RUF launched the Living Lab research platform. Funding was donated by Andrew and Valerie Pringle to identify research needs for rooftop farming in partnership with the CSFS and Principal Investigator, Fiona Yeudall.

2020 and beyond | The new DCC rooftop farm is under construction with indoor and outdoor growing spaces for year-round growing and learning. It will include a gathering space for up to 140 people with medicinal and pollinator-friendly gardens in collaboration with Aboriginal Student Services. The infrastructure upgrades on the Andrew and Valerie Pringle Environmental Green Roof are also still underway. In the future, we plan to reopen for tours, educational programs, volunteering and events.

*Advisory Committee (2011-2014)

Made up of faculty members from Architecture (Leila Farah, Mark Gorgolewski, June Komisar, Vera Straka), Biology (Leslie Campbell), Chang School Certificate for Studies in Food Security (Reg Noble, James Kuhns, Joe Nasr), Nutrition (Fiona Yeudall) and community members (Lauren Baker and Zora Ignatieff).