About Us

Photo of the Homestead T.O. team, Vinyse, Quizno and Derek


Homestead T.O. was created to teach and inspire people to grow and preserve food locally and organically.  Life is busy and we’ve 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, just north of Wilson and Keele in Toronto.  In addition to our Grow Veggies program, we provide growing space to program graduates and other community programs so that people in the neighbourhood have access to fresh, organically grown food.


Photo of Derek Barber in the greenhouse, holding a bowl of harvested vegetables

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.  Seven 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 to increase food security in their neighbourhoods.  Community food security initiatives that I’m currently involved with include 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 others, my career focus has been in the not-for-profit sector.  I’ve worked in roles that support families experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, seniors, newcomers, and individuals facing health crises.  My true passion, and where I spend most of my time, is in environmental and animal causes. In my current role as Operations Coordinator for a not-for-profit animal photojournalism agency, I see every day how the well-being of humans, animals, and the environment are all connected.

As Co-Founder of Homestead T.O., I’m our photographer, social media manager, course moderator, and editor. 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, balconies, and community spaces 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


  • Caring for the well-being of all humans, animals, and the environment is beneficial to everyone, as our well-being is interconnected