Backyard chickens. One-acre market gardens. Rooftop bees. What used to be part of the rural landscape is creeping into the cement-and-steel terrain of Canada’s urban centres, creating an intersection of food, community and education.
By Nikki Wart
Nov 3, 2016
In the past year at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College, 60 per cent of the applicants for the bachelor of science and agriculture program came from urban postal codes.
And few companies are doing it as well as Alvéole, a Montreal-based hive-keeping company founded in 2012.
“We’re basically setting up a hive and saying, ‘This is your hive, and you’re going to see food production and agriculture and environment through these bees,’ ” he says, adding that there are a lot of similarities between urban agriculture and traditional agriculture. For one, urban farmers still have to battle weather and disease.
But instead of focusing on mass production, like beekeeping companies outside the city, McLean and his team focus on education—not just about the importance of pollination and the production of honey, but also to convince people that beekeeping is safe.
“People, once they get through that barrier of fear, are truly fascinated about agriculture and the environment,” he says. For McLean, the most rewarding element of his job is being able to connect people-—from elementary school kids to bankers—to nature through bees.
His advice to up-and-coming urban agriculturalists: “Start something and see how it works.” If you don’t have an uncle with a bee farm, many universities and colleges offer night and weekend courses on beekeeping, including Algonquin College in Ottawa and Royal Roads University in Victoria.