We’re not sure who we were expecting to speak with, but a former Wall Street lawyer certainly wasn’t what we had in mind.
Ran Goel, the founder of Fresh City Farms, is passionate about changing the world. After a short stint working in New York, he felt he needed a change of pace – to do something more meaningful and to make a positive impact.
The more he thought about it, the more he felt it had to be something with food.
Urban agriculture became a puzzle for him to solve. He knew that he wanted to run a business rather than rely on donations or government stipends. His ultimate goal? To grow Fresh City Farms to the point where they can not only pay their full-time staff competitive salaries, but also offer them health insurance and other benefits.
“The intention was always to grow a business,” he told us, “to grow a farm business to the size that it can support quite a few people to make a living. Historically, people did it for a living. More recently the vast majority of urban farming projects are not for profit or recreational in nature. What we want to introduce is a model that makes it more scale able, that really greens more of the city, literally, and that provides jobs, so that when we interact with people, we go to dinner parties and meet a plumber and an accountant and a farmer, in a way that you don’t right now.”
Based in Toronto and serving over 1500 members, Fresh City Farms provides über-local, fresh organic produce grown both within the GTA and further afield. They deliver year-round to their customers’ doorsteps, and offer a broad mix of fruits and veggies grown by their member farmers, or in the cold winter months, sourced from certified organic and fair trade farms across the world.
While there are definite obstacles to organic farming in the city, Goel was quick to note the advantages. With a close proximity to market, Fresh City Farms not only supplies the best, freshest produce, but also relies heavily on word of mouth to grow their customer base. “People really have a sense of where their food comes from,” he said, “and they end up being more loyal as a result.”
When asked why he’s so passionate about urban farming, he brought it back to his grandparents’ youth on a kibbutz in Israel. “They described growing food as difficult but also very joyful. We’re reintroducing that joy, and what food can taste like at its best, back into people’s lives. In city farming you see the potential to really educate people on a simple and a very primal level.”