Daniel Hoffmann has two really cool jobs – Farmer and Condo Garden Consultant.
As the Founder of The Cutting Veg (TCV) Organic Farm located in Sutton, Ontario, Daniel runs a variety of programs aimed at cultivating personal, social, environmental, and economic health.
Along with Jane Hayes from Garden Jane (A GTA-based organization whose work revolves around urban agriculture and permaculture practices), these two joined green thumb forces to create Hoffmann Hayes in 2012.
Hoffmann Hayes is known for cultivating farmers markets, inspiring corporate teams at their farm, and the most amazing opportunity for urban agriculture…Condo Garden Coaching.
The duo work to develop community gardens in new condo buildings. How cool is that?!
Daniel explained that it all begins with a collaboration between the condo developers and Hoffmann Hayes. Since the building’s structure needs to accommodate the weight of the garden beds, the planning begins around the preliminary design stage of the condo. HH provides consulting for variety of key details including the direction of the beds (plants need sun), location of the hose bins (soil + water = growth), and signage for the gardeners (where da gardens at?).
Fast forward a few years and voila, a condo is build! (If only it was that quick…)
Now the real fun begins! Daniel and Jane work together to assemble a resident garden committee, these committee members have the rewarding job of overseeing the garden all year round.
Hoffmann Hayes teaches the committee members garden basics such as conducting annual plot registration for residents, purchasing supplies and managing finances. The goal? After three years, condo residences have the experience to oversee the thriving garden without the help of Daniel or Jane!
I don’t know about you, but I find these condo gardens SO cool. I wanted to learn more, so I chatted with Daniel about this amazing urban agriculture opportunity…
How many condo gardens have you worked with in Toronto? Currently, we have between 15 – 20 fully functioning gardens.
What is the overall feedback you receive? It’s positive from both the developers and the residents! Gardens are a great way for condos to develop a sense of community and abstain from the isolation stigma associated with living in a condo. We often hear: “I wasn’t sure about moving into a condo, but when I found out there was a garden…” It’s wonderful to know that our gardens make residents happier.
What kinds of obstacles do you face when pitching this concept to a new condo building? Most developers are actually very interested and not resistant, but it’s more challenging when the condos are predominantly rental units.
How do you think Toronto can improve its urban agricultural presence? I think any building that has the appropriate physical space can have a positive social and environmental impact. Most buildings that have the capacity or infrastructure to support small gardens can help residents produce higher volumes of food and reduce grocery bills.
I want to see more volume and space dedicated to food growth. We could easily utilize vacant and conservation lands, and large building rooftops…Toronto has so much potential!
How can condo boards or tenants bring Garden Coaching to their property? We may not be able to build infrastructure in existing condos but we can connect with other organizations to help with retrofitting sites for gardens.
Thank you for all your hard work, and for making agriculture more accessible in our big city! We’re going to wrap this up with a few personal questions…
What is your favourite recipe? Pesto! I make over 200 mason jars a year using simple, real ingredients; herbs, seed or nut, salt, garlic, olive oil. You can make so many varieties of pesto: Basil, Dill, Parsley, Kale, Cilantro, Basil-Leek, Basil-Green Onion! It’s so fresh and versatile.
What are three ingredients/items that are always in your grocery basket when you go shopping? I source whatever I can, not from the grocery store – meat from local organic meat farmer, pasta from farm colleagues, honey from local BeeKeeper. But from markets, I mostly buy fruit and cheese.
Name a memorable food item/dish: I just recently tried Dragonfruit, it was so beautiful!