Pinto on Food

Windsor couple transform tornado-ravaged backyard into urban farm

After a tornado damaged Bryan Kavanaugh and Breanna Whitford's home in 2016, they transformed their Riberdy Road backyard into an urban farm.

Bishop's Urban Farm grows organic produce and microgreens in two Windsor backyards

Bishop's Urban Farm co-owner Breanna Whitford gives a tour of their backyard farm in Windsor, Ont. 0:54

In 2016, a tornado tore through Bryan Kavanaugh and Breanna Whitford's home and backyard on Riberdy Road.

"It took out everything. Fence, shed, everything," said Whitford, who works as a pharmacy technician in Harrow. "The only thing that was left was the vegetable garden."

That remnant was a sign of things to come.

The avid gardeners, who started growing their own food out of frustration with the availability of organic produce, made a habit of posting images of their small crop on social media.

A chef at Windsor Club saw the pictures and approached Kavanaugh and Whitford about supplying the private club with microgreens, mini-versions of vegetables popular in the food world.

Despite its small size, Bishop's Urban Farm has the hallmarks of a larger farm operation, such as an irrigation system. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

"They loved the stuff that we were growing," Whitford said. "So then we decided that when we were rebuilding [our backyard], we were going to rebuild it to strictly just grow produce."

In the wake of the tornado, Bishop's Urban Farm — named after their son — was born. 

"We mainly just focus on salad greens," explained Kavanaugh, who works for a local machine and tool shop. "The space is so small that you can't grow your big crops. You want less than 60 days to maturity."

Microgreens, such as this radish variety, are grown inside. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Between their Riberdy Road backyard and a second plot at Kavanaugh's mother's house in South Windsor, the farm has approximately 278 square metres of growing space.

In addition to supplying the Windsor Club, Whitford and Kavanaugh sell their produce at the Harrow Market and the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market, where they say they complement, not compete with farmers from Essex County.

"I talked to one farmer at the farmers' market and he said its not worth for them to grow what we grow," Kavanaugh said. "They got huge acres to deal with; they don't want to deal with small stuff."

Due to the size of the operation, Bishop's Urban Farm focuses on leafy greens, such as spinach. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Now that the couple have a greenhouse and walk-in cooler, Kavanaugh and Whitford believe they have the infrastructure in place to grow their business in 2018.

They plan on selling at more markets, and getting their produce in more restaurants — even grocery stores. Increasing their growing space by expanding to additional urban backyards is also part of the plan.

"If people have a backyard that's got really good southern exposure ... we'll take care of it — and you'll get fresh veggies every week," Kavanaugh said.

Bishop's Urban Farm co-owner Bryan Kavanaugh uses special machinery to harvest greens at their urban farm in Windsor. 0:30

Jonathan Pinto is CBC Windsor's food reporter. Hear his latest tasty story every other Monday at 4:45 p.m. on CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive with Chris dela Torre.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

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