Robert Battistella grew up in an Italian household where a root cellar and vegetable garden were considered very important aspects of daily life. Over the years he maintained backyard and kitchen gardens whenever possible, though always felt the need for something more substantial. He has a longtime interest in nutrition, food security, natural medicine, and just about anything based on holistic philosophy.

In addition to holding a BA from the University of Ottawa, Robert has studied Fine Arts and is certified in teaching ESL, as well as e-Publishing and Web Development. His professional experience is focused largely in the nonprofit sector and he has worked with many organizations and grass roots initiatives over the past twenty years, including several years of involvement with the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Organic Growers. In his view, urban farming and small-scale agriculture have an extremely important role to play in helping our society move towards a more sustainable and ethical way of life. He is excited about current trends in local organic markets and new emerging venues that offer viable food choices. This is Robert's first season with Fresh City and he is looking forward to exploring day-to-day realities of local food production and distribution as well as networking with people who share similar interests.

Well, here we are in the heart of summertime! Despite some brutal weather patterns it’s been a fantastic season so far. I’d like to thank the folks at Fresh City for hosting what has been a truly unique urban farming adventure! Over the past seven months I’ve come to know the farm at Downsview Park very well. It has been an inspiring place to be, albeit often times quite challenging too.

Farming involves hard work, but it’s also very rewarding.  Some of the crops I’m cultivating include vegetables like beets, beans, eggplants, zucchini, chard, kale, and tomatillos as well as a variety of micro-greens. As per Fresh City protocol I’ve been practicing organic growing techniques and learning a lot of new stuff. From plants to insects to wildlife and atmospheric conditions, farming gives you a close up perspective on the natural world. The plants we’re cultivating at the farm are truly amazing! While observing and caring for them from day to day I have come to appreciate just how incredible and generous they can be.

People have been farming for thousands of years and it’s great to see how much interest there is these days in urban agriculture because it is so important on many different levels. The concern with organic production is a crucial element too.  Aside from added nutritional and environmental benefits, organic urban farming brings with it a powerful social dimension that can help bring communities together.

Small-scale producers such as I would not be able to survive without the interest and support of the community at large. So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people out there that are committed to buying local produce and who work to educate the public, organize community programs, CSAs, farmers markets, and the like. It‘s encouraging to see people working together to improve our food system and ensure availability of viable choices.

I would also like to thank the people at St George the Martyr Anglican Church that run the John Street Farmers Market, which is a new initiative located in the south end of Grange Park. They have provided a spot for me to sell my produce and connect with some really great people.

There is so much more I could say but I guess I’ll have to stop here. Thanks for reading this. I’m heading back out to the field to check my crops. Hope to catch you later. Until then, bon appetit!


Catch Robert at the John Street Farmers' Market on Saturdays from 9:00am to 1:00pm at Grange Park (Dundas W. & Beverley St.).