The Compost Research Array at Downsview Park Farm (CRAY@Downsview) is an experimental microfarm and permaculture space being developed by Crooked Farmz as part of the Fresh City Farms urban agriculture partnership, launching in 2022.

CRAY@Downsview has three primary components: first, a compost production space where different composting techniques will be practised to create finished compost of high microbial diversity to support Crooked Farmz‘ compost tea brewing; second, a field trial space in which we may research different applications of compost tea and microbial inoculation; and finally, a small permaculture space to grow plants in support of the first two components as well as contribute to the overall biodiversity of the farm.

The research array will be a grid of sixteen 3’x18′ field patches divided into four clusters or replicates of four patches each. CRAY@Downsview will offer the farmers of the Fresh City project and other interested urban growers the opportunity to timeshare one of the 12 clusters for a season in order to ‘simulate’ future crop rotations under various composting conditions — ie. as miniature field trials.

These simulations will be supported by various composting techniques and methods practised by Crooked Farmz, including Johnson-Su bioreactors, on-site vermicomposting, aerated static piles, compost tea brewing capacity, dynamic accumulator plants, and more.

Participating farmers may be paired with a compost mentor, and will together propose questions oriented around microbial soil health and plant growth. The simulation will entail the same crop succession, intercrop, companion planting, or micro market garden being replicated across the four field patches in the cluster, with the ‘null condition’ in each cluster being an annual application of industrially-produced compost and the other three patches experimenting with other composting possibilities.

The aim is not to overly scientize the process, but to offer crowdsourced observation potentials for rapidly prototyping and seeing what works — especially given the relatively poor quality soil we are starting with at Downsview Park. All vegetables grown during the trials will be donated to local food security initiatives as part of Farm Fractionz.