Project SOIL is a feasibility study that explores the potential of on-site food production for public institutions through arrangements with local producers, particularly where access to farmland is limited and expensive. By encouraging and facilitating these partnerships, we aim to test the potential for growing mutually beneficial relationships, while increasing the production and consumption of fresh food.
With funding from the New Directions program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, we have started five pilot initiatives, producing food on-site at health care, social service and educational institutions. There is significant interest in the project, and many institutions across the province are contemplating or starting their own food production pilots. However, the pathway from pilot to viable core program can seem lengthy and fraught with challenges. To support these initiatives, and provide useful examples from which to learn, we have produced four in-depth case studies of existing models that have achieved significant annual production:
- FoodShare’s School Grown Market Gardens, with 2014 sales of over $17,000 from two high school sites;
- The Community Harvest food growing project at the Black Family Farm, where the Ottawa Food Bank’s staff farmer produced over 70,000 lbs. of vegetables in 2014;
- McGill Feeding McGill, where the foodservice department spends $45,000 per year on produce grown on a University owned-and-operated 25 acre farm, and;
- the Kingston Prison Farms, which included the largest urban farm in Canada (900 acres), and which housed beef, dairy, egg, fruit and vegetable production operations and an abattoir serving the local region.
These case studies represent food production models that developed over years, and required time, resources and commitment to achieve significant scale. In each case study, we document the history, resources, partnerships and lessons that enabled each to grow and prosper in their own way.