Low hanging fruit: food production in urban park design
The importance of parks became starkly apparent as we pivoted to new ways of socializing, exercising, eating, and all aspects of living during the pandemic. We can learn a lot about park planning from formal and informal park innovations and usage during this crisis, as well as adaptations from previous moments of instability, such as wartime. Innovations that responded to these pandemic years can help us understand our planning challenges.
This paper looks at the iconic Allan Gardens in Toronto's downtown core as a prime example of a multiuse park that became a crucial resource during the pandemic. Touching on several ways the park was used from the spring of 2020 to the fall of 2021, this paper focuses on the vegetable garden adjacent to the park's Victorian greenhouses that was transformed from its role as an exemplar of edible landscaping, container gardening, and a food-growing teaching hub, to becoming an important productive garden that provided weekly deliveries to two non-profits devoted to food distribution. Designs of other productive gardens in parks are discussed as well, including the garden at Ashbridges Estate in Toronto, a rooftop park in Nyon, Switzerland, a neighbourhood park in Jamaica, NY, and a transformed lot in Detroit, to determine how cohabitating food production with other park uses can be both possible and desirable as we design for the future of parks. Such prescient park design is a key element of resilient planning for a sustainable future.