Marlaina Meinzinger (left) and Nathan Putnam (far right) are Queen’s students and co-owners of Living Cities Company, the organization behind the Urban Fresh farming initiative. They joined their summer staff member Courtney Ostic (middle) to plant seedlings at one of the company’s urban farms located at 708 Bagot Street.
A new student-run urban farming program is helping make truly local food a reality in Kingston. Starting in June, members of the Urban Fresh initiative will be growing a variety of tasty veggies in downtown gardens, supplying local restaurants and individuals with fresh produce grown right in the city.
“We grow our vegetables in backyards, at community centers, on rooftops and on hospital grounds —anywhere we can find usable space,” says Nathan Putnam, a third-year biology student and the operations manager of Living Cities, the community business behind Urban Fresh.
“Food transportation has a huge environmental impact. By purchasing city-grown produce, participants can essentially cut their “food miles” down to zero, and have access to fresh, organic vegetables all summer long. It is something that will become increasingly important as the price of fuel continues to rise."
Urban Fresh operates on a membership basis where participants pay $500 for a 20+ week period and, in return, receive a basket of produce each week worth approximately $25 dollars. Baskets are available from June 1 to the end of October and can be picked up on multiple days of the week from several locations throughout the city.
The membership model is based on the concept of community assisted agriculture (CSA), which is a growing trend among growers and consumers interested in the relationship between the production and consumption of food. Because members purchase a share of the produce in advance, farmers have money up front to plant their crops. This means greater security for farmers and greater comfort for consumers who know exactly where and how their food is produced.
The result is a mutually beneficial relationship, in which a farm supports the community's needs for fresh, nutritious, wholesome food, and community support allows farmers to devote their energies to environmentally and socially-sustainable farming practices.