Indicators For Urban Agriculture In Toronto – A Scoping Analysis

Indicators For Urban Agriculture In Toronto – A Scoping Analysis

Indicators For Urban Agriculture In Toronto – A Scoping Analysis

Strong leadership and support will aid the growth of urban agriculture across Toronto.

Authors: Rhonda Teitel-Payne, James Kuhns and Joe Nasr
Toronto Urban Growers
Dec 2016

Executive Summary

When Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified a considerable gap in Toronto- specific data on the impact of urban agriculture (UA), Toronto Urban Growers (TUG) was commissioned to engage Toronto-based practitioners and key informants on identifying the most relevant and measurable indicators of the health, social, economic, and ecological benefits of urban agriculture. The overall objective of the work was to develop indicators that a wide range of stakeholders could use to make the case for making land, resources and enabling policies available for urban agriculture.

The process started with a desk study of recent attempts to create indicators to measure urban agriculture in other jurisdictions. Indicator experts were interviewed to identify effective strategies and common pitfalls for developing indicators. The preliminary research informed the development of a set of draft indicators and measures, which were reviewed by Toronto-based practitioners in one-on-one interviews and a focus group. This feedback was used to further refine the indicators and measures and to develop data collection tools for each measure. A subset of the practitioner group gave additional feedback on the feasibility of the data collection tools, leading to a list of 15 indicators and 30 measures recommended for use. The review also identified additional indicators for further development beyond the scope of the current project and a short list of indicators not recommended for use.

The diversity of urban agriculture was flagged as a complicating factor in developing widely applicable indicators, as UA initiatives vary according to type of organizational structure, focus of activities, size and capacity to collect data. Specific indicators such as improved mental health and social cohesion are difficult to assess, while even a seemingly straightforward statistic such as the amount of food grown is challenging to quantify and aggregate. This report also identifies key audiences for the indicators and how they might be used. For governmental audiences, rigorous data that emphasizes both the importance of UA to constituents and the capacity of UA to help achieve the goals and objectives
of specific government initiatives is crucial. Valid indicator data is equally valuable to engage private and institutional landholders and to increase public support among residents and consumers.

The report concludes by remarking on the need for partnerships between the City of Toronto and urban agriculture practitioners to start using the recommended indicators to collect data for the 2017 season and to simultaneously continue working on the more complex indicators to create a complete suite of tools. While individual organizations and businesses can collect data for their own funding and land use proposals, support for broader-impact strategies and enabling policies will only be possible if a city-wide picture of the critical role of urban agriculture is clearly established.

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