About Us

Homestead T.O.
Derek, Co-Founder and Instructor
Vinyse, Co-Founder
Our Values

Photo highlights of our Grow Veggies program, including a watermelon on the vine, a bountiful harvest, and Derek teaching seed saving


Homestead T.O. was created to teach and inspire people to grow and preserve food locally and organically.  Life is busy and we have become increasingly disconnected from our food sources in recent years.  As a result, much of the food that we eat is processed, while healthier, organically grown food has become more expensive.  Our program provides training to anyone looking to improve their knowledge of growing food and to make the most of their own yards and balconies.

Our urban farm is located in Downsview Park, near Sheppard and Keele in Toronto.  In addition to our Grow Veggies program, we provide free growing space to former program graduates and to other community programs so that people in the neighbourhood have access to fresh, organically grown food.


Photo 2019-08-28, 6 02 09 PM

When I started container gardening on a balcony almost 20 years ago, I fell in love with the idea of growing my own food.  Over several years, I grew veggies in backyard gardens, community gardens, and even rooftop gardens.  Six years ago, I decided to follow this passion – I changed careers and became a member farmer on urban agricultural farmland in Downsview Park.  I went back to school and completed certificates and diplomas in Horticulture, Sustainable Urban Agriculture, and Growing Plants for Profit from the University of Guelph.

I’ve helped start community gardens, facilitated gardening programs with kids and newcomers, led a rooftop gardening program, and worked with community co-ops and horticultural gardens with the goal of increasing food security in their neighbourhoods.  Currently I volunteer with Edible Allan Gardens and Food Up Front.

Homestead T.O. was created to share my passion and knowledge for growing veggies, and I love that our program brings together people who have an excitement for learning, getting their hands in the soil, and sharing the harvest!


Photo of Vinyse Barber harvesting lettuce to donate

With an early-seeded passion for helping people, my career focus has been to work with not-for-profit organizations who are doing good in this world.  I’ve worked in roles that support families experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, seniors, newcomers, and individuals facing health crises.  Currently I work as the Volunteer Lead for a startup not-for-profit that provides funding and mentorship to initiatives around that world that foster empathy for humans, animals, and the environment.

My life goal is to make a difference in the world every day, and to inspire others to turn compassion into action.  My recent volunteer work is in the areas of environmental sustainability and animal welfare, including co-founding a not-for-profit that provided seed funding to build the capacity of advocates in India to care for street dogs and other animals in their community.

I absolutely love cooking with the heirloom and organically-grown vegetables from our urban farm, and I love that we can share skills and harvest with old and new friends alike.  Follow our Instagram account to see all the photos I’ve taken of our program in action, our harvest, and the dishes we’ve created with food grown with love! 


Photo collage of sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes, and flowers at the farm


  • With experience, food can be grown at home and without the use of pesticides and herbicides, making it safer and healthier while reducing toxins in our soil and water
  • Our own yards and balconies provide the easiest opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint
  • The cost to build and maintain a garden can be minimal, providing low-cost access to fresh food for years to come


  • Growing and eating food brings people together more than any other activity
  • Toronto has the land and resources to be able to produce a significant amount of its food locally
  • Food is healthier and tastes better if harvested when ripe and not transported over long distances

Food Security

  • People should have improved access to healthier foods at a reasonable cost
  • Knowledge of how to grow food, how to eat seasonally and how to preserve food are key components of any food security strategy


  • Humans, animals, and the environment are interconnected, and the well-being of one affects the well-being of the others
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