Category Archives: Project SOIL

Growing Public Food — *NEW* Case Studies

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:

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.

For more information, and to download pdf versions, please visit our Case Studies page, or contact Phil Mount (pmount@wlu.ca) or Irena Knezevic (Irena.Knezevic@carleton.ca).

 

Growing Food on Public Land

From ChangeLab Solutions comes Dig, Eat, and Be Healthy: A Guide to Growing Food on Public Property (pdf)

Growing food on public property – from vacant fields, to schoolyards, parks, utility rights-of-way,  and even the rooftops of public buildings – can yield a diverse crop of community benefits. Fresh, healthy food is just the beginning: growing food on public property can also promote civic participation, public safety, food literacy, job skills, and urban greening – in short, healthier, more vibrant places. This guide provides users with the tools they need to access public land for growing food. Read more

Project SOIL webinar

Shared Opportunities on Institutional LandsLakehead Psychiatric Hospital

Challenges and opportunities of on-site food production

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EDT

In Ontario, several institutions are already producing food on their properties as a way to generate revenue; supply nutritious fresh food for consumption (by staff, patients, students, etc.); provide skills training and therapeutic benefits; and build social enterprises.

Project SOIL is a three-year feasibility study that explores the potential of on-site food production at public health care and educational institutions in Ontario.  This webinar will share how project partners at health care, social service and educational institutions went about getting gardens off the ground at their institutions, as well as some of the lessons we learned in the first year of working with pilot projects across the province.

Webinar participants will include:

  • Chef Christopher Jess, high school culinary arts instructor in Fergus Ontario, and the guiding force behind the Food School Farm (Centre Wellington District High School);
  • Doug Dowhos, Supervisor of Employment Options for St. Joseph’s Care Group and creator of the GreenWerks Garden social enterprise (Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital);
  • Tami Proctor, Registered Horticultural Therapist  leading the Victorian Garden project at Homewood Health Centre;
  • Louise Quenneville, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Project Manager at Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital; and
  • Jenny Weickert, Our Farm coordinator at KW Habilitation.

For more information and to register, please contact Irena Knezevic at irena.knezevic@carleton.ca

5 Chefs, 5 Pigs and a Blues Band

1st Annual Fergus Whole Hog BBQ 

Fergus, Ontario

On Sunday, September 7, the Wellington Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (WCSA) will host a live blues band and a competition for the title of Fergus’ elite pig roaster, at the 1st Annual Fergus Whole Hog BBQ. Among the jurors for the competition is Zane Caplansky, owner of Caplansky’s deli and the Thunderin’ Thelma food truck. This Food School Farm event will provide an opportunity to talk to the chefs, savour the flavours of their craft and take a walk through the newly transformed grounds of the historic farmhouse.

Tickets can be purchased online through the WCSA website or at Scotiabank Fergus.

$35 for adults; Children 12 and under free.

When & Where:

Sunday, September 7 from 3:00 – 7:00 PM (EDT)

570 Belsyde Road

 Fergus, ON 
Canada

The event will also be the first opportunity for many residents to see the pilot of a newly formed partnership exploring on-site food production. In collaboration with the WCSA and Centre Wellington District High School, the Food School Farm offers the students a unique learning opportunity where alternative farming techniques can be explored, while growing quality produce for the school-run culinary program.

SOIL initiative at hospital keeps growing

Scott Carmichael
The Glengarry News,
Alexandria, ON

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A hands-on “green” program is flourishing at the local hospital. Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital (HGMH) is participating in one of five pilot projects across the province to study how public institutions can also become food producers.

Linda Morrow, HGMH CEO, said the Alexandria hospital was chosen to participate in the Project SOIL (Shared Opportunities for Institutional Land) initiative in October. The program is investigating the feasibility of using institutional land to grow organic produce by examining on-site food production systems already in place at Ontario institutions.

The hospital foundation received $2,000 from the study organizers to expand the hospital’s garden, which was started following reception of a $25,000 Healthy Communities Fund grant from the province in 2011.

Rehab patients, primarily those recovering from strokes, have, along with staff, tended the garden located behind the hospital. Given patient mobility and access concerns, the outdoor garden consists of ground-level and raised beds which contain a wide range of produce, including cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, shallots, squash and tomatoes, as well as various herbs.

Produce grown in the garden is incorporated into patient and staff meals.

Ms. Morrow said the hospital is using the grant to build another aisleway in the garden to allow for easier access for wheelchair-bound patients. She added that the hospital is also looking into other related initiatives.

“Eventually what we want to do is engage our local farmers to participate with us and combine the hospital-grown produce with a current supplier,” Ms. Morrow explained.

“Having a positive impact on clinical outcomes in the rehab program, being recognized as a leader in green health-care initiatives, and demonstrating that we’re a key player in the buy local movement” were other possible off-shoots of growing the garden initiative through Project SOIL.

Chantal Mageau-Pinard, the hospital’s manager of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services, said that many rehab patients feel right at home amongst the veggies and herbs. “Most of these people have been farmers, or are used to working in gardens four or five times larger than this one,” she said recently. “So it’s familiar territory for them.”

Besides HGMH, others participating in Project SOIL are KW Habilitation in Kitchener-Waterloo and GreenWerks Garden at Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital in Thunder Bay; Homewood Health Centre in Guelph and the Food School Farm at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus.
The joint research team will study the skills that people can gain from participating in on-site food production, as well as the impact of channelling fresh local produce into institutional food supplies, at KW Habilitation and GreenWerks Garden.
At HGMH and Homewood Health Centre, the team will study mostly therapeutic benefits, while the Food School Farm is participating in an agro-ecological program.
SOIL is sponsored by Carleton University, University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University and is supported by My Sustainable Canada.

A New Way to Farm

OCTOBER 2 – 4, 2014 – TWO EVENTS

“Farming with Nature profitably” with Mark Shepard
(Author and Polyculture Expert)

Public Seminar—Steckle Heritage Farm
Kitchener ON

Thurs. October 2nd, 6:30pm-9:00pm

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard (pdf 380 kB)

Registration: $10 An evening sharing session where Mark will give an overview of his design concepts and facilitate a lively question and answer period. Books will be available for purchase.

To Register visit: http://shepardworkshop.eventbrite.ca or http://shepardpublictalk.eventbrite.ca

Questions email Leanne at Our Farm : leannebaer@gmail.com

Open Consultation Workshop

2-Day Hands-On Experience at Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Waterloo Ontario

Fri. October 3rd, 9:00am-4pm – Principles
Sat. October 4th, 9:00am-2pm- Field Day

Farmer, engineer, ecologist and author Mark Shepard will be providing a 2 day, in the field open consultation in Waterloo, courtesy of Our Farm, project partner at our KW Hab pilot sites.

Mark will explain how to transition from a purely annual production to a perennial system that integrates nut and fruit trees, fruiting bushes and vines, alley crops and pastured livestock. Keyline design, a water management technique, will be included and demonstrated in the field.

Mark joins us from Wisconsin where he has been farming 100+ acres using these design principles for the past 18 years.

Registration: $195
Registration fee includes refreshments and lunch, entry to the Public Talk and the two-day workshop. Limited scholarships are available upon request. Books available for purchase.

Register here:

Perennial polyculture workshop: October 3-4, 2014
http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/mark-shepard-workshop-tickets-1565353013

They grow inclusion at urban microfarm

KW Hab story from The Record, August 14, 2014

With the help of eager student volunteers and KW Hab residents, the farm on University Avenue has become a powerhouse of engagement and fresh food. The harvest is taken to headquarters every Wednesday where residence co-ordinators can pick out what they need for the week. More than 50 kilograms of snow peas, onions, kale, garlic and more have been harvested between the two farms this summer. On Tuesday, staff and volunteers bottled 35 jars of pesto made from the garden’s fresh basil.

Some activity groups and day programs visit the farm on a weekly basis. Franks said some love it so much they want to visit more often. On Wednesday an activity group peeled and ground cherries that will be processed into jam. Others walked around in the pleasant weather or enjoyed the sensory garden. Read more

Homewood Garden in the news

Homewood

The Project SOIL pilot at Homewood has been in the news lately, with coverage on radio and in print, including this fine article in the Guelph Mercury.

After constructing a Victorian-styled, replicable garden, Homewood is just starting to use their fresh produce in the kitchen, to great response.

fencebuilding

“When you think about it, we have a number of rural hospitals and long-term care facilities in this province that actually have a significant amount of land as part of their property,” he said. “Certainly the ones in urban settings may have less land to work with, but in the case of Homewood, their property is 42 acres large.”

In bygone times, Homewood had a full 80-acre farm on site, situated across Delhi Street. It produced enough food to feed its patients and supply the broader community with fresh vegetables, fruit and eggs.

Read more

 

KW Hab ‘Micro-farm’

Micro farm will provide food, activities for KW Habilitation residents

By Anam Latif

The Record

WATERLOO — California-style tomatoes, rhubarb and basil are just a few of the vegetables KW Habilitation will be growing at their new urban micro farm in Waterloo.

After a successful community garden project in 2011, KW Habilitation turned their backyard into a farm they hope will feed and engage their residents.

KW Habilitation provides services for adults and children living with developmental disabilities. Their largest program is the 23 residential facilities across the region.

“It’s very therapeutic to get people involved in gardening,” said Tracy Franks, director of community participation at KW Habilitation. “And we are looking at reducing some of our food costs for the people that we support residentially.”

The farm is also a way to teach skills like planting and watering, skills that Franks said can be employable after people leave KW Habilitation programs.

Rows have been staked and planted, waiting for the farm’s first crop to bloom. They also built three raised beds Monday night for people with mobility issues to be able to farm comfortably. They are also planning a narrower bed that is raised even higher for people in wheelchairs to be able to reach.

“We will be able to cater to all physical abilities,” Franks added.

Read more

Is that all there is… to debate?

Many have commented since the June 3 Ontario leaders’ debate that little attention was paid to health care, which makes up about 40% of the provincial budget. Food and farming faced the same lack of attention – hardly surprising, given the six ‘representative’ questions that the media selected to guide the debate: ethics, energy, jobs, debt, transit and education.

It’s a shame that the agriculture and food debate –organized by OFA and the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors– was cancelled. This debate might have given some insight into party platforms that don’t get a lot of prime time exposure.

It’s also a shame that there wasn’t a seventh question in the televised debate, asking the leaders to explain how their earlier positions would affect the development of agriculture and food in the province – forcing them to make clear the links between education, jobs, investment, (health!) and agriculture and food policies.

On May 23rd, Sustain Ontario’s Vote on Food and Farming campaign attempted to do just that, by asking party leaders to reflect on questions covering topics as diverse as health promotion, training and cross-ministerial cooperation – as they relate to agriculture and food issues. I went through their answers with interest, looking for points of consensus as well some of the details in their proposed solutions to issues that shape our food systems.

Three parties –the Liberals, NDP and Green Party– submitted thorough responses, while the PC leader sent a form letter with three brief paragraphs about the Million Jobs Plan. As a result, the Vote on Food and Farming Report Card was full of question marks in the PC column. I hunted down the PC white papers (which can’t be accessed from their own website!) in order to fill in that picture.

And what these white papers show is that the PC Party’s agri-food platform is largely silent on many of the issues captured in the Vote on Food and Farming. This is hardly surprising for issues that the party’s current election platform prevents them from acknowledging – such as increasing social assistance to cover the cost of a nutritious food basket, or increasing the reach of the Student Nutrition Program. In other areas, the white papers’ silence reflects low priorities (at least at the time of writing) for the promotion of healthy eating; encouraging ecologically regenerative agricultural practices; protecting pollinators and their habitat; and protecting farmland.

It is also hardly surprising that, on many of these same issues, the other three parties are all pointed in the same direction, differ only in degree, and could therefore –in theory– work with each other. For example, while the Greens advocate universal approaches in student nutrition programming, guaranteed annual income, protection of class 1 farmland and neonicotinoid controls, they would be unlikely to reject Liberal or NDP policy suggestions which move in the same directions.

One set of solutions highlights interesting differences between the parties: how to get beyond the Ministry-level ‘silos’ that often discourage cross-ministerial cooperation and coordination on food issues.

  • The NDP would “develop a coordinated approach that makes sense”;
  • The PCs would “create one-window access to government for farmers and agribusinesses so they can obtain information efficiently and get one straight answer from government”;
  • The Liberals would “convene an inter-ministerial committee to engage stakeholders such as Sustain on an integrated government approach to agriculture, food, nutrition, health, and environment issues”; and
  • The Greens would convene “an Ontario Food Policy Council with stakeholders and members of the public that is ingrained within OMAF, including a representative from each party and the Premier’s Office”

While I don’t want to overstate the significance of a single statement, these replies suggest some fundamental differences in their approaches to governance.

However, differences were not the rule. In fact, all four parties agree on two issues: setting targets for public procurement purchases of local food, and realizing the Community Food Program Donation Tax Credit, which are both sections of the Local Food Act, but are not yet proclaimed. Of course, even universal agreement doesn’t guarantee action in the current legislature: all parties promised to ease the regulatory burden on small and mid-scale processors in the 2011 campaign, and are repeating that promise in this campaign – since nothing was accomplished in the interim.

Often, the reason for lack of action can be found in the details. For example, only the Greens acknowledged that setting targets for procurement of local foods would be unhelpful without also increasing the funding to hospitals and other institutions. It is often such details that turn what appears to be consensus on the campaign trail into division in the legislature.

Another example: while there is a general consensus that the province needs more regionally-based infrastructure to move local food, the Liberals are investigating whether this can be done by giving money to mainstream distributors, and the PCs are suggesting that another food terminal will do the trick. These approaches reflect a fundamental misreading of both the historical lessons of regional food processing, distribution and marketing in the province, as well as the necessary components of a sustainable, regional-scale food infrastructure.

The leaders’ debate could have provided some much-needed details on the factors that shape their parties’ food and farming policies. Before you make your decision on voting day, be sure to take a look at the Vote on Food and Farming Report Card, which provides some of those details.