As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, small businesses continue to find new ways forward to meet the challenges of uncertain times.
But there’s one thing TOPSOIL knows for certain: we’re determined to keep growing fresh food for Victoria, in spite of the obstacles.
When the pandemic hit, we pivoted our business to focus more on providing fresh food direct to the public. It was a roaring success, and we’re continuing to do so in 2021 with a great new season planned.
Farmers Markets are deemed ‘essential services’ – no surprises there, as what could be more essential during a global health crisis than supplying people with the freshest, healthiest and most nutritious food?
Our on site Farmers Market was so popular in 2020 that we’ve bringing it back and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever! We’re continuing to partner with other local farmers to sell their produce on site, and will be offering even more products and special goodies this year. Do come down to check it out – it’s outside, safe and fun!
I’ve been so honoured and humbled by the community support for TOPSOIL over the past year and can’t wait to see what great things we can bring to you all in 2021. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see what we’re up to.
Eat well and stay healthy!
TOPSOIL Founder & Company Director
Local. Fresh. Better.
Imagine if you had the choice …
To eat produce grown in another country, trucked in from miles away and already days old when it gets to your plate, or
To eat produce picked fresh & ripe this morning just a few blocks away.
Which would you rather eat? It’s a no-brainer, right?
However, a large majority of produce consumed in Victoria travels great distances, taking days – and sometimes weeks – to reach our plate. By then it’s lost most of its taste, aroma, texture and nutrients.
There is a better way – grow food where people live.
TOPSOIL grows food in unused urban spaces right here in Victoria. We supply high quality fresh produce to restaurants who want to wow their customers with incredible locally-grown flavour.
Fresh, tasty and delivered minutes after being picked. That’s hard to beat.
How it works
Transform underutilized urban spaces
We occupy urban spaces that would otherwise go unused – like rooftops, or vacant blocks awaiting development – transforming them into productive and profitable agricultural spaces, to create a sustainable, hyper-local food economy.
Grow premium fruits & vegetables
Using innovative, light-footprint gardening technology like geotextile planter containers we can grow a variety of fruit, veggies, salad greens and herbs right in the heart of the city.
Supply community with fresh produce
We sell food bursting with flavour and aroma to the local community and restaurants. Our fresh produce is delivered straight to our restaurant partners or sold at our on-site public market.
High tech, low impact gardens
TOPSOIL runs commercial urban GrowSpaces in Victoria supplying produce directly to local restaurants and the surrounding community.
We use award-winning geotextile containers. They’re easy to set up and move, and keep the soil contained and tidy. Automated watering systems keep plants hydrated with minimal water use.
Our garden systems are lightweight and inner-city friendly – ideal to set up on just about any surface including balconies, patios, vacant lots and undeveloped land.
Because there’s no fixed structures or loose soil everywhere, our gardens can be easily arranged to suit the requirements of each space, and are completely removable when required.
Restaurants and community members can wow diners and friends with dishes featuring the unparalleled flavour, texture and aromas of super-fresh, locally-grown produce.
TOPSOIL uses ZERO chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, ensuring the highest quality produce.
Our food gardens are aestheically attractive and contribute to positive urban renewal – less bare concrete, more leafy greenery.
The food-safe containers we use for restaurant deliveries are collected, washed and reused weekly.
We use an electric vehicle for most of our deliveries.
You deserve to know exactly what you’re eating and where it came from. Our “in-sight in-mind” approach embraces open transparency about how we grow our food.
What is TOPSOIL?
TOPSOIL is an urban agriculture business that utilizes unused space by implementing productive farms. The produce we grow is sold directly to the surrounding restaurants and local community. Our long-term vision is to implement our proven TOPSOIL farm system in other communities.
How did this all start?
TOPSOIL was conceived due to the understanding of the negative consequences of our current industrialized food system. Our pilot project was a 400 sq ft garden on a rooftop back in 2015. Now we are in our 6th season, and operating a 20,000 sq ft urban farm in Victoria.
Is TOPSOIL a not-for-profit, a co-op or a business?
We are an incorporated business, embracing a philosophy of ‘people, planet and profit’. We believe good business aspirations can be in support of healthy community-driven choices.
Where can I find TOPSOIL produce?
TOPSOIL operates a business-to-business model, supplying premium produce directly to kitchens of select Victoria restaurants. If you want to eat our produce and sample great local food, pay a visit to one of our Restaurant Partners.
The public can also visit our GrowSpace to buy fresh produce from our On-Site Market.
What restaurants are you partnered with?
We partner with many different restaurants. Our main partners include: The Fernwood Inn, Caffe Fantastico (all 3 locations), Canoe, Fiamo, Swans and many more – check the Restaurant Partners page for the full list.
What community partnerships are you involved in?
We are partnered with:
- LifeCycles which implements topsoil micro-farms on school grounds to provide fresh food and education to the school community,
- Songhees Wellness Centre and their rooftop garden,
- Food Eco District (FED) to provide gardening kits to people who have been impacted by COVID-19, and
- The South Island Farm Hub.
Can I visit TOPSOIL at Dockside Green?
Chefs/restaurants and building owners interested in becoming TOPSOIL Partners, or members of the media can contact us to arrange a visit to TOPSOIL at Dockside Green to see our operation in action.
The public can visit our On-Site Market to see our GrowSpace at Dockside Green take home fresh-picked produce.
How do you determine your prices?
Our prices are generally based on the Vancouver Island local organic market prices. We do not compare our prices to the heavily subsidized prices you find at Save-On or Walmart, as we are not supported by (and do not support) the large industial-agricultural business model. Our produce is hyper-local and grown by hand, with care and a local community focus.
Why do you grow food in above-ground containers?
We grow in above-ground containers because we focus on growing food on non-arable land in urban spaces. Our mission is to create a food production system that can be placed onto any surface and replicated in any community, close to where the people who will be eating the food live.
What are the containers made of?
The containers are made of inert, porous, geo-textile fabric which is BPA (bisphenol A) and lead free. The fabric is durable and long lasting.
What are the benefits of growing food in fabric containers?
The fabric containers are porous so they allow water to drain easily, release heat and allow oxygen to penetrate the soil from all sides. The geotextile fabric also ‘air prunes’ the roots systems which occurs when a root comes in contact with the air on the side of the container. The root tip stops growing and instead begins growing smaller side-roots, which take in more moisture and nutrients. Finally, the fabric containers allow us to easily fit our entire 20,000 sq ft farm into a 20 ft shipping container, which we can replicate and send to other communities who want to set up the same system.
Why do you only grow a small variety of crops and not other crops?
We focus on quick growing, cut-and-come-again crops. Growing a small variety of crops allows us to focus on quality, quantity and consistency for our customers.
Are you certified organic?
We are not certified organic but we do embrace and practice organic principles. Bringing food production into cities allows everyone to come down and certify our practices for themselves.
Are you concerned about toxins in the air getting into the soil?
Due to our observations on our soil health and plant growth we are not concerned with toxins in the air at this point. We should be more concerned with breathing toxins present in our urban air.