Frequently Asked Questions
What is Farmbox?
Read the main page for more details. In short, it is a project to help city-dwellers grow food where they live. Farmbox takes wood intended for landfill then rebuilds it into boxes where residents may grow food on publicly-viewable spaces to harvest for themselves or share with neighbours. Farmbox aims to increase our supply of plant foods while fighting inflation, strengthening local nourishment, and giving purpose to under-considered spaces.
What is the long-term goal of Farmbox?
To advance a model of sustainable city-living one food plant at a time, and to turn Toronto into the largest free potaTO farm in the world.
ORDER / COST
How do I order a Farmbox or multiple Farmboxes?
Click on the Order A Box! page to submit a request.
How much does a Farmbox cost?
They are FREE! The standard Farmbox is absolutely free if you are placing it in public view (ie. front yard, shared laneway, condo yard). The purpose of the project is multi-faceted, but part is to encourage others in the community to grow food where they live so we want first to equip locations visible to the public. For more info on acquiring boxes check the Order A Box! page, or for more info on how we stay afloat check the Give a Gift page.
Why is there a cost for backyard or balcony Farmboxes?
Much as we'd like to build Farmboxes for every setting, the project goal is to encourage people to grow in the many public spaces which go underused, and to think differently about what makes a space useful and beautiful. Why not food plants instead of grass or hedges or hardscape, or at least alongside? Because so many have reached out regarding private-space Farmboxes, we now offer them for a relatively low cost. Most of the proceeds will go right back into the free Farmbox project so it aids in our own sustainability.
How long will it take to get my Farmbox?
Demand in 2022 is very high so there are no current timelines for delivery. Dozens are being distributed every week. If you put in an order and are on the list, we haven't forgotten about you. There is a chance you will not receive your Farmbox(es) until next season due to demand, but we are currently augmenting our ability to build and distribute, with the goal of building thousands per year as of 2023.
What does it mean if I'm on a wait list?
A wait list, not the main list most orders are placed on, was formed for those looking for private Farmboxes (ie. for backyards or balconies). Though we'd love to build places to grow for everyone, it's just not possible, especially in the early days of the project. We had put the many private orders on a wait list but likely won't be taking anymore non-publicly viewable orders going forward, as they will now be for a cost. We simply don't have the resources.
Where can I display my Farmbox(es)?
Any publicly-viewable space! Front yards, laneways, shared condo yards, apartment building frontages, traffic medians—all great.
How to repair or replace a broken or stolen box?
Sorry to hear about that. Let's face it, these Farmboxes are made from upcycled wood and over time are going to break down. We are trying to give the wood a second life, not an eternal one. If your box has been damaged by age or water or whatever, shoot us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the query form on the Farmbox page and we will try to repair it or get you a new one. If your box has been stolen we will replace it, though your order will enter into our queue so we cannot guarantee timing.
How to protect from theft?
Best best is to keep the Farmbox filled with soil and plants. When the boxes are in use, vandalism and theft rarely occur. When the Farmboxes feel abandoned, sometimes they grow legs. If you need any extra soil or seeds or plantlings, get in touch.
Is there a warranty for the condition of my Farmbox(es)?
In short, no. We try to repair a damaged box or replace a stolen one, but there is no guarantee and no warranty, regardless whether your Farmboxes were free or if you gave a gift of material or money to the project. We just aren't set up to guarantee the lifespan of repurposed wood subject to the elements and realities of city life. Farmboxes are meant to be ephemeral, to encourage and foster sustainability. Over time, this will lead to more long-lasting options and solutions.
Is there a warranty if I paid for my Farmbox?
No. We do our best to make sure each Farmbox is solidly constructed, and certainly let us know if the box fails from normal use in the first season, but we can't guarantee the lifespan of upcycled wood.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Is it safe to consume food plants grown in the Farmboxes?
We think so. Of course, no publicly-grown food can be guaranteed 100% safe, so you should always take care to wash all plant materials you remove from any Farmbox very well (as you should with all produce). Much like anything grown outside, the plants are subject to elements and animals which could contaminate the food, so we can't give a health guarantee. If you ever feel uncomfortable about the condition of a fruit or vegetable, legume or herb, do not consume it. As well, if you are growing root vegetables (ones which grow below the soil such as potato, beet, carrot or radish) you can eliminate almost any risk by peeling the vegetable prior to cooking or consumption.
What are you doing to prevent toxins from pressure-treated lumber potentially leaching into the soil?
Farmboxes are built with open-bottoms, so gravity does the vast majority of the work, as anything which might leach off the wood will naturally trickle down into the soil below and not move a great distance rom the Farmbox walls. You can read an informative and annotated explanation of safety considerations at this link. We avoid the use of any wood older than 20 years, using wood of the new ACQ standard (which contains no arsenic, the standard concern with pressure-treated lumber). Even with an older wood or paint, the risk of any contamination is very low but certainly do your own research. You may start by reading these related discussions from Oregon State University and Iowa State University. We now offer to wrap your Farmbox(es) in a plastic sheeting, thereby creating a leak-proof barrier between the roots of your plants and the container wood, and it has the added benefit of prolonging the life of your Farmbox as there isn't the eroding pressures of wet soil up against the wood walls. (Certainly, feel free to add your own protective plastic sheeting or impermeable membranes as desired.) We also recommend you grow your food plants in the middle of the Farmbox, as opposed to right up against the edges of the wood, though that would be true regardless of box construction.
What should I expect when my boxes arrive?
We deliver the Farmbox(es) to you (or to the agreed-upon location). Every free box is put in place and optionally filled with soil. This part is crucial to make sure nobody takes the boxes by mistake (or on purpose). If you can provide your own soil—great! We will coordinate the exact location with you, but whether you are around or not at the agreed-upon time, we will install the boxes with soil inside (and sometimes seeds or plants). We are increasingly allowing for drop-offs without installation, as well as pickups from our workshop starting in 2023.
Who supplies soil and plants?
Each deployment is different. If you do not have soil we will provide, as we don't allow the Farmboxes to go uninstalled (otherwise they may be taken or not placed in public view). We will discuss your needs seed/plant-wise and if we can help we absolutely will supply.
How is the Farmbox watered or maintained?
Once the Farmboxes are deployed into the world it's incumbent upon you to take care of them. Frequently people in the community help out, but mostly it takes you popping over with a container of tap water every day or two to keep all those delicious food plants thriving. In time we will publish tips on how to grow various types of food plants but for now use the web as your resource (or send us an email query).
You do! Enjoy your bounty. In an ideal circumstance, members of the community will also harvest, as we have many thriving Farmboxes serving as community herb gardens, pepper pots, bean dispensaries, and so much more.
How do I let people know what is growing in the Farmbox?
We are eventually going to offer a collection of signs with various fruits, veggies, legumes and herbs which may be growing in the box. Feel free to make your own in the meantime. We will also be producing little signs suggesting neighbours harvest from your box...but not take the entire plant. (Also, feel free to make a sign to name your Farmbox!)
How do I gift a gift of soil/seeds/money/wood/my time?
How to buy a book? Where do the proceeds from the books go?
Check out our Bookshop to purchase any writings (books, screenplays). The vast majority of profits are put directly into the Farmbox project, while a portion (typically $1-2) is given each to the author and illustrator.