farmboxes toronto

Toronto man is using old fences to encourage people to grow their own food

A Toronto man is using the remains of old fences to encourage people in the city to grow their own food. 

Mike Gallay started the Farmbox Project in 2019 after he found an abandoned lot near where he lived in Oakwood Village

"It was driving all the neighbours crazy... it was filled with weeds and a ton of garbage and debris, so one day I decided I was going to clear it and maybe try and grow something there," said Gallay. 

Gallay had the idea of recycling old wood to make into boxes so he could grow produce in them at the lot.

He went around his neighbourhood gathering up old pieces of wood, especially leftovers from fences found in bins that were headed to the landfill. 

"There would be leftover fences, decks, and ramps lying everywhere, so I would start scooping them up, especially ones that were cedar, or had not been pressure treated, that I could easily use," said Gallay. 

Gallay used the wood to construct what he calls "farmboxes;" they have no bottom, and he fills them with soil. They are meant to be put inside the ground so that you can fill them with seeds and grow any produce you like. 

Through lockdowns in 2020, the activist noticed more people doing home renovations in his area, so he easily found more and more wood from the leftovers these projects to make the farmboxes. 

"Contractors would happily give them to me because it reduces their cost for dumping into landfills," said Gallay. 

After this, Gallay was inspired to make his farmboxes into a bigger project, and he ended up scattering a bunch of the boxes filled with soil and seeds around the city in public spaces. 

The idea for this intiative is similar to Little Free Libraries around the city.

The motto for the project is "take a plant, eat a plant, leave a plant," so neighbours can come together to grow their own produce, while taking what they need for food. 

Gallay says the project has taken off, with many people requesting boxes for their own yards and neighbourhood laneways. 

"It's pretty amazing. A lot of people aren't used to growing food, and it's actually very simple," said Gallay. "You can grow different varieties like kale or potatoes, or lots of garden herbs — it just takes some tap water every couple of days." 

With the cold weather now arriving, Gallay says he plans to bank a bunch of boxes to plant once the spring comes. 

On his Instagram page, the activist is running a competition to give out 422 boxes by the time Earth Day rolls around on April 22.

In the future, Gallay hopes the farmbox project will make an impact on food insecurity in the city. 

"It really is kind of strange that as a species, we don't grow food where we live," said Gallay. "[Farmboxes] are a great tool to just be able to essentially grow for free using what we already have." 

Lead photo by

Mike Gallay 

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