Akos Asare knows firsthand that good things grow in Ontario’s Highlands – the entrepreneur launched a small-scale, high-yield and sustainability minded micro-urban farm, Re.Planted in the small community of Deep River, and is setting an example for the potential of sustainability in urban and suburban spaces.
Born in Ghana but raised in Toronto, Akos, along with her husband, Bernard, their son and young daughter moved to Deep River when Bernard was stationed with the military in Petawawa in 2019. At the time, the agricultural potential of the region was something of which Akos had no knowledge, but it nevertheless would have a big impact on her family’s life here.
“We didn’t choose Deep River; Deep River chose us,” Akos said of the move to the Ottawa Valley. “We were blown away by the support we received from the community here.”
It was after the move to Deep River that Akos became somewhat obsessed with gardening and found herself exploring possibilities for growing vegetables and flowers on her small residential lot.
Had Akos ever grown anything before? No. Was she fascinated by the abundance of the earth and eager to try her hand at becoming more sustainable? Yes.
“My favourite course in university was a coursse on sustainability, and the professor talked about food systems, how an apple 50 years ago was nutritionally equivalent to six apples today,” said Akos. “I knew there was something wrong with the food system, but thought sustainability and ecologically friendly was for wealthy people who could afford to eat well. In my economic background we didn’t have a lot of decisions, you just went with what you could afford.”
Akos approached a local business to see if they would be interested in purchasing her produce. A change in opening dates for the local business left Akos with a wealth of produce to sell and no where to sell it. She decided to set up a table in front her house and posted it in a local Facebook group.
“I had zero expectations when I set up a table on a Friday, but there was this massive line-up, it was absolutely insane,” Akos said. “I had to get help from my husband and a friend, and we were totally sold out within a half an hour…I thought oh my goodness, maybe this is a viable way of selling this produce.”
From there selling veggies from the end of her driveway became a weekly phenomenon and Akos began taking classes on market gardening and flower farming to not only refine her methods and business plan but to become more sustainable as well.
And so Re.planted, a garden built from a network of underutilized front lawns, was born.
“We’re turning our neighbours’ and our own front lawns into these havens for ecological life…we bring them alive again with our plants,” said Akos.
Her garden space may be only .16 of an acre, but from it Akos manages to produce enough food to sell through her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business, including flowers. Today, Akos is looking at investing in the community, providing others with the skills to grow their own food and sustain themselves in a very small space.
“We’re small, very, very small, we are technically a micro-urban farm,” said Akos, and noted that what she’s doing now with Re.Planted “wasn’t this grand plan, it was a 'let’s see what this community likes and then adapting accordingly' idea.”
Gardening of any kind can give you life lessons, and Akos explained that because much of gardening is up to Mother Nature, it has helped her learn how to manage not being in full control. “It taught me how to adapt, how to encourage that lack of control and just exist.”
Sustainability for Akos means sustainability for the earth, ensuring what is taken from the earth is replenished, but it also means sustainability in terms of growth of her business.
“There’s a lot of lessons I’ve gotten out of gardening, but what keeps me coming back to it is there’s something about eating something that you grow from seed that’s so primal, so intrinsic, it feels like a part of me that needs to be expressed, that gives you such a sense of joy and accomplishment that’s hard to put a finger on but feels so natural,” said Akos.