All posts by admin

Good News from Prison Farms

On the heels of the excellent news about the rebirth of Kingston’s prison farms comes another example demonstrating the synergies of combining food production and under-utilized public institutional land: the story of Pê Sâ​kâ​stêw Healing Lodge, a minimum-security federal prison located on the Samson Cree First Nation reserve.

“Peyasu Wuttunee, acting executive director of the healing lodge, said the garden began as a way to use some of the centre’s extra land. Staff bought seeds through donations, with the intention of donating the resulting produce to the food bank.”

In the article, one inmate describes a ‘form of gratitude‘ that comes from the farm work, which for the inmates is voluntary community service. If you were to attempt to assess the benefits that come from a prison farm program based on short-term economic criteria (e.g. program costs per job placement) or a direct correlation to recidivism, gratitude would be unlikely to feature. If the more holistic approach of healing lodges expands our appreciation of diverse forms of value produced by prison farms, we all stand to benefit.

Inspiring Change in Health Care (with a new video!)

Since its inception seven years ago, the Therapeutic Garden at Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ontario has been a leader in the field. The brainchild of Louise Quenneville, Project Manager at HGMH, the garden has grown steadily by maximizing resources, including a three-year partnership with Project SOIL. The garden has brought well-deserved attention to HGMH and Louise, now recognized as one of Canada’s health care innovators.

In 2017, HGMH brought in a graduate of l’Institut de formation et de recherche agroalimentaire (IFRA) de La Cité in nearby Alfred, to implement SPIn farming techniques. Now the garden not only benefits stroke rehab patients through exercise engaging fine motor skills and memory, it also produces a bounty of vegetables for patients, staff and visitors—over 800 lbs. this year!

Check out this new video of the Therapeutic Garden at HGMH, an inspiration to all who’ve visited.

Growing Green

GGlogoDeveloping an Institutional Garden for The Ottawa Hospital

Five grad students from the Health: Science, Technology, Policy GGreportsmallinterdisciplinary program at Carleton University have compiled an extraordinary resource capturing the diverse benefits and designs of institutional gardens, while developing a model to support the development of a therapeutic garden (short-term) and institutional food production (long-term) at The Ottawa Hospital.

Under the direct supervision of HSTP faculty member Edana Cassol and Project SOIL co-lead Irena Knezevic, the five students—Vanessa Handley, Dania Koudieh, Alex Marshall, Fatimah Mirza and Charles Ozzoude—compiled a comprehensive report (1.1 MB pdf) for their capstone project, as well as a Summary Report (640 kB pdf), an Executive Summary, and an infographic. GG_Infographic

For more details, please visit their report page here.

Visualizing the Future of Health Care and On-site Food Production

For three years, Project SOIL has used case studies, pilot projects and visioning sessions to investigate the viability of on-site food production at public institutions, through collaborative arrangements with local food producers.


Check out our final report!

Over that time, interest in food production on public land has continued to grow, with schools and universities, health care institutions and seniors residences, community food centres and food banks, as well as public agencies—from conservation authorities to crown corporations—making land available for food production.

Are you an engaged staff member, or an administrator at a public institution, who is interested in the idea of establishing food production or food gardens on-site? This research has established a baseline of preconditions, useful practices, potential barriers and positive adaptations—for a diverse set of institutional and community settings—that will allow project leads to envision how their idea would come to fruition, and build a compelling case.

Maybe you’re part of a community where public institutions control a significant amount of land, and you would like to develop a strategic vision that includes food production? Community groups, farmers, and organizations supporting urban agriculture, food security and food justice can use the information contained in the research report to identify what has worked in a situation similar to their own, and present this evidence to build a compelling proposal for their institutional partner.


Or maybe you’re a policy-shaper—working with new and young farmer training organizations, or advocates of sustainable health care reform, sustainable urban agriculture practices, or community resilience in the face of climate change—to illustrate the potential of positive alternative strategies to build new collaborative partnerships with multiple, and often unanticipated, synergies and benefits.

Project SOIL has built strong relationships with community and institutional leaders that will continue to innovate and collaborate in the pursuit of the beneficial synergies that spring up when you grow food on public land.

Our final report, “Ontario Public Institutions and On-site Food Production: Visualizing the Future for Health Care“, is available now. Please share widely!

Changing Hospital Food

Three interesting Ottawa Citizen articles this week on changes to the food at Ottawa-area hospitals:

Ottawa Hospital managers, after eating the food for a week, say changes are coming

Ottawa Hospital CEO Dr. Jack Kitts recently ate hospital food, and you won’t believe what happened next. Well, if you have ever eaten hospital food, you probably will. (Read more…)

Queensway Carleton proves hospital food doesn’t need to be bland

It might not be the next Beckta, but the Queensway Carleton Hospital is proving that hospital food doesn’t have to taste like hospital food. (Read more…)

Freedhoff: Hospital food should heal, not make you sicker

That everyone understands the term, “hospital food” to be one of derision rather than praise is a problem. (Read more…)

From Local grains, Nutritional Benefits!

From Ag Innovation Ontario, the story of the Spruits, local producers who turn grains into superfoods:

…Last year, they grew 26 acres of heritage grains and are especially excited about two of them. The first is a hull-less barley, developed in Canada, which has half of the gluten found in wheat and high levels of beta-glucan fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The second is a non-GMO purple corn with origins in ancient Peru. When ground, it produces whole grain flour that is both a gluten-free alternative to wheat and has double the antioxidants found in blueberries. Too often, she said, people with gluten allergies will turn to substitutions that have little nutritional value.

And just as unfortunate, she noted that “so many of the superfoods that people are buying are imported from other countries”. The grains that the Spruits produce solve both issues – superfoods with high nutritional values that are grown “right here at home”.

Four products – Purple Corn Flour, Purple Corn Meal, Beta-Glucan Barley Flour and Barley Berries – are available commercially. Spruit has been promoting the line within culinary and health networks, and many restaurants and bakeries in the Ottawa area are now incorporating the flour and corn meal into their products.

Read more

Harvesting Health: Investigating the Therapeutic Effects of Gardens

On April 18, 2016 @ Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital, an interdisciplinary team of grad students in the Health: Science, Technology and Policy program at Carleton University presented their report reviewing the health benefits of gardens, and providing an inventory of tools that can be used to track such benefits. Harvesting Health: Investigating the Therapeutic Effects of Gardens is their capstone project, and available on our website. The tools will be coming soon!

For questions or further information please contact


Healing Garden Research

Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing
Clare Cooper Marcus, Naomi A Sachs (Wiley Press – 2013)
Therapeutic Landscapes focuses critical attention on the design and creation of landscapes that promote health and well-being, emphasizing the importance of evidence-based design to meet the needs of specific patient populations, as well as those of visitors and staff. It presents an overview of healing gardens and therapeutic landscapes from planning to post-occupancy evaluation and offers guidelines on which landscape architects, healthcare administrators, and funders to base their decisions.

RESTORATIVE GARDEN DESIGN: Enhancing wellness through healing spaces  (free download)
M. Susan Erickson (Journal of Art and Design Discourse) June 2012 no.2 89-102.
Current research from a variety of academic disciplines reveals that contact with nature provides stress reduction, which in turn leads to improved health outcomes. This research leads to additional questions—what kind of contact with nature? How much? Are there certain types of plants which are more therapeutic than others?

See our research page on the Therapeutic Benefits of Gardens in Health Care Facilities