The best path for Chris was not typical. Getting an education, followed by a respectable job is a fantastic goal. Something to be envied. Admired, too. But a path like that is not for everyone, and Christopher Wong is the first person to admit that.
Chris is wise beyond his years. Armed with enough courage to take risks and follow his intuition. Enabling him to work in a field that makes sense to him and our world.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR TEENAGE SELF?
Oooh – wait until you read this.
Who is Christopher Wong?
I am a simple person who is trying to leave the world a better place than how I found it. For me, this means helping people grow their own food. To empower them with the skills, knowledge, and products to help them enjoy fresh, healthy, delicious food they can grow in whatever space they have available. I also love being out in nature and enjoying the simple pleasures in life like sunrise and sunsets. Sharing food with friends and family, exercising outdoors, and reading great books.
What is Young Urban Farmers and how does it work?
Young Urban Farmers started off building raised garden beds using the square foot gardening method. As we have grown and expanded, our product offering includes container gardens, soil and soil amendments (fertilizers, trace minerals, coconut coir) garden accessories (hand pruners, gardening tools, natural pest control products), and built an e-commerce store to serve customers across Canada. For a few customers, we also offer a full-service gardening package helping to plan, plant, maintain, and take care of the garden throughout the outdoor growing season. We want to offer the best, curated, high-quality gardening products and services that we personally use and recommend.
How did you begin to work in the farming industry?
I got into urban farming almost by accident. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and so after I finished my education, brainstorming various ideas with some former classmates followed. Thinking about what is going to be “The best path for Chris”. We started talking about urban farming and it seemed like a great opportunity for a sustainable business that aligned with our goals and values. While we didn’t grow up farming, we studied and learned a lot about how to grow food and the principles and techniques in how to grow a thriving and productive garden. Every day is a part of the journey as we continue to learn and develop new skills and knowledge on how to help people be more successful with their gardens.
What is your typical day like?
The growing season here in Toronto and Southern Ontario is relatively short and so our regular activities and tasks really change with the seasons.
Winter: This is the time to relax, recharge, and plan for the upcoming year. This can mean researching new products, starting seeds at the greenhouse in late winter, and getting ready for the busy spring season.
Spring is all about getting the gardens planted and seeing things grow and come back to life. It is my favourite season despite how busy it can be to get everything planted at the appropriate time.
Summer is a chance to enjoy the fresh produce that is coming from the garden, enjoy the long and hot days, and enjoy more time outdoors.
Fall is when we continue enjoying the harvest and bounty of the garden, while also savoring the time outdoors as the days get shorter and the temperatures start to drop. It is a time to get the gardens ready for winter and start thinking and dreaming about next year’s gardening season!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned being an urban farmer?
There is always something new to learn! No gardening season will be exactly the same as Mother Nature will challenge you with new surprises and learning opportunities. Damaging storms, a late frost, and new pests and diseases are just a few examples of what can happen. You have to learn to recognize patterns, be flexible when things need to change, and keep up with the latest research and practices from scientists, practitioners, and other farmers and gardeners.
What are you most proud of?
I take great pride and joy in making a real positive difference in people’s lives. There’s something almost indescribable about seeing the joy and happiness from all aspects of the gardening process. Whether it is enjoying a juicy ripe tomato straight from the garden. Witnessing how the plants grow and mature. Sharing the bounty with those that matter. Making one’s space feel closer to nature by watering, weeding, and engaging in the daily gardening tasks. Food and gardening can connect us all, no matter our background or age and it is a pleasure and a privilege to share this with as many people as I can.
How do you spend your free time?
I love spending time outdoors. During the summer, this typically means a weekly Ultimate Frisbee game as well as a yearly August canoe trip to Algonquin Park. I also enjoy hiking, cycling, and calisthenics at the local park. When I am more indoors, I enjoy playing the cello as part of the North York Concert Orchestra and am an avid reader, particularly of biographies and historic fiction. Some recent favourites include How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue and Phosphorescence by Julia Baird. Cooking is another hobby and I love pretty much anything with eggplant!
Let’s unpack your quote: Please elaborate on the following.
“Your path is your own and you can blaze your own trail.”
Growing up, I was generally a rule follower and stayed along the tried and true paths of being a good student, getting into a good university, and getting a good job. However, I broke away from the mold becoming an entrepreneur in an unusual field. I realized that there are multiple paths to success and your path does not always have to follow in other people’s footsteps. There can be twists and turns, ups and downs, and side trails to explore. As long as you are moving forward, you can make progress toward your goals. Part of the joy is enjoying the journey, rather than the destination. While there can be uncertainties, blazing the trail that feels true to yourself will allow you to lead a fulfilled and happy life.
It’s amazing what can happen if you listen to your intuition and follow your purpose, despite what may be expected of you. Working with Young Urban Farmers has been the best path for Chris, enabling him to hone the agriculture skills that are best for him and the world simultaneously.