As most Torontonians know, our city is a busy, bustling place, and like most cities it has minimal greenage. No, greenage is not a real word, but I will be using it here to reference not only parks, street trees, ravines, and whatnot, but just general leafy stuff.
As you might also know, our food industry is extremely detrimental to our Earth. Yes, we need to eat. No, feeding ourselves should not be destroying our planet in the process. Well, that is my personal opinion, seems like common sense to me. Actually, yes, that is in fact not an opinion, that is a fact. I find facts get blurred with opinions too often, so for the purpose of this piece, simply accept that as fact.
Ripple Farms is located in the Brickworks, a community centre in Toronto along Bayview. They focus on growing food sustainably and, man, are they doing it well! Greenwood’s Grade 12 Environmental Resource Management class popped on over to see what was happening. I can’t speak for the whole class, but I was not prepared to be blown away like I was.
The guy who showed us around, Bryan, greeted us as we walked into the Brickworks, walking out in a flannel jacket and some heavy boots, looking like a hardcore Canadian. His background was in engineering. Before we got started, he made sure to emphasise the fact that he never would have pictured himself as a farmer, but he was enticed by the fascinating world of sustainability.
He helped design aquaponic systems, and hydroponic systems. We looked closely at one of the smaller-scale aquaponic systems that was fully functioning in a storage container in the middle of a pathway. Walking past it, I never could have imagined the magic that went on in there, but stepping inside genuinely felt like a future world. The system included a fish tank filled with tilapia, which is a fish that is extremely hardy, perfect for such purposes. It had a system that allowed the fish waste to flow into another tank that separated the waste from the water, and into the bottom of the aquaponic system. Above are multiple plants being grown without soil, just in the water under special, environmentally friendly lights. This system could hold and grow 24 plants at a time, but there were much larger ones upstairs. Bryan even allowed us to try a sample of one of the plants. I personally found it disgusting, but my friend Charlotte liked it, so whatever floats your boat, I guess!
After we saw that incredible system, we toured around the area a little bit to see how it used to look, and to inspire us that environmental change really can happen. The beautiful pond that is now home to many native species and works as a well functioning ecosystem used to be a deep, destructive, man-made quarry.
Near the end, we all got together in the crisp outdoors to talk about food issues and we brainstormed solutions to present environmental problems. I really enjoyed being with a group of young people who were passionate about making change, having an open discussion about how to fix the problems of the past to create a better future for our Earth. This was a really brief explanation of our trip, but I hope it convinced you to check out Ripple Farms, and I really hope that some people out there care as much as we do!