Grand Trunk Veggies: Maximizing Urban Farming Potential

Posted by Michelle Lam on April 25, 2021

Grand Trunk Veggies is based on Treaty 7 territory, a traditional gathering place, travelling route and home for many Indigenous Peoples including the Kainai (Blood), Siksika, Piikani, Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda. In addition, Métis peoples.

The land is also known in Canadian geography as Calgary, AB. 

This case study is a part of Young Agrarians Alberta Land Access Guide, a toolkit for farmers seeking land opportunities.

Kye started his urban farm by growing veggies in the backyard of the house he was renting. Soon after he found more yards through a plot listing compiled by YYC Growers & Distributors. Kye was keen to farm so he took on any urban land that was available. Unfortunately many of these yards were far apart and this made his farming operation inefficient. To minimize the travel time between yard sites, Kye put paid advertisements for land into community newsletters in a specific area of Calgary, where he already had existing farms. Within a few months he had enough yards to run his urban farm within a few neighbourhoods.

Kye and an employee farmed on 10 properties, which together amounted to about ¼ acre, that were within 1.5 km of each other. Kye leased the garage of one house to use for storage and as a washing and packaging facility. Each property owner received veggies in exchange for the use of their yard. Liability insurance protected himself and the landowner.

Kye established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with each landowner to make it clear what he would do (i.e. growing and harvesting veggies) and what he will not do (i.e. general yard maintenance). The goal of the MOU was to ensure that expectations were clearly stated and that both the farmer and the landower felt comfortable with the arrangement.

Kye used the water available on site and ensured that the landowner felt fairly compensated for that water use. He had a positive relationship with all the landowners and was picky about whose land he would use. His advice: the land and the landowner both need to be amenable to farming!

Kye’s success was in maintaining good relationships with the landowners. The longest he’s farmed on one yard is 6 years.

Kye recommends that when urban farmers are starting, they slowly build up the number of sites they farm to ensure that each yard and land owner fit the needs of the farmer. Typically the amount of work is proportional to the number of sites, not the amount you produce, so it pays to be picky!

Since this post was originally written, Grand Trunk Veggies has transitioned ownership. Josh and Sarah Spackman are now the new owners of Grand Trunk Veggies and Chefs Farmer. Photos have been provided by Grand Trunk Veggies.

Interested in exploring a career in regenerative farming in Alberta? Here are some helpful places to start:
  • The Young Agrarians Apprenticeship Program is a full immersion program that puts you into the heart of running a farm business, day in and day out.
  • The Business Bootcamp is a pay-what-you-can online, community-based program that will give you the space and skills to write a stellar business plan for the farm of your dreams.
  • The YA U-MAP is an online tool that can link you to nearby educational, land, and job opportunities!
  • Sign-Up for the YA Newsletter to receive the latest updates on news, events, and jobs.
  • Join the Young Agrarians Alberta Facebook group, an online community of regenerative farmers in Alberta.

Have any additional questions? Send us a message to alberta@youngagrarians.org

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