By Andrea Prazmowski –
Mathew Levinson wants your lawn. He’ll trade you fresh vegetables and leafy greens for it.
To be precise, Mathew wants to use the land where residents are currently growing lawns, to establish urban “micro-farms.” A Kitchissippi resident who was also raised in the neighbourhood, Mathew is the owner-operator of Capital Greens Urban Farm, and he urges people to “grow food, not grass.” He is heading into his second summer of growing pesticide-free vegetables on residential properties in the McKellar/Westboro neighbourhood. Mathew enters into agreements with homeowners and he does all the work to prepare, tend and harvest the gardens. In return for the use of their land, the property owners receive a share of the produce weekly throughout the growing season and Mathew sells the rest locally, including to some of the city’s restaurants.
His goal? He wants to promote alternatives to “the industrial food system.”
“I grow everything as naturally as possible,” he explains. “With no chemical fertilizers, no pesticides. And the food is growing right in the city, so I avoid the emissions from shipping food long distances.” Mathew cuts down on emissions even more by keeping all his micro-farms right in his own neighbourhood and using his bike and a bike trailer to transport tools and harvested produce.
He also wants to help people have a greater appreciation for the food they eat.
“I’m growing it so close to people that they can actually see the process from start to finish and see what goes into it. I’m showing people how it’s done.”
Getting rid of her lawn was one of the benefits that appealed to one satisfied homeowner. Anne Donald lives on Windermere Avenue. Mathew came in last spring and converted most of the backyard lawn into a large vegetable patch.
“When he first told us about the plan we just jumped on it,” she recalls. “We weren’t really using our backyard. Our kids are grown and we go to the cottage a lot. It’s just such a clever use of space and I’m so happy I don’t need to cut the lawn anymore.”
The whole arrangement proved to be very easy, says Anne. “Mathew came in and cleared it all up, hauled in the compost and set the plants out. He comes regularly with his bike and trailer and he’s never a bother.”
Anne and family enjoyed their share of arugula, lettuce, kale and other greens grown in their yard and they also received a portion of the tomatoes and vegetables that Mathew grew in other yards.
Leafy greens are his main crop, including baby spinach and bok choy. He also grows carrots, beets, cherry tomatoes and radishes, as well as herbs. Last year he planted 1000 square feet of land and this year, so far, he has agreements to farm twice that amount. Eventually he would like to get up to 10,000 square feet under cultivation and is actively looking for new yards. He has three key criteria: that the yard provides at least 600 square feet of growing space, that it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, and that there be access to an outdoor faucet.
If you would like a free yard appraisal, you can reach Mathew through his website at capitalgreens.ca.