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!
Insights on systems thinking, pedagogy covering the basics of the program, videos from the inmates, and documented research and results—this is a must-read for those interested in the power of food production as rehabilitation and therapy, from the inside out, from the soil to the cell. This chapter is part of Beyond Prison—a large, freely accessible online volume that captures important new approaches to rehabilitation in a system that has mastered incarceration.
Over the last decade the garden program has become a fixture in San Quentin’s rehabilitation courses and has proven to be a successful measure to reduce recidivism. A 2011 tally of 117 garden program participants who were paroled between 2003 and 2009 found that less than 10% returned to prison or jail. Waitkus estimates that this saved California taxpayers around $54M. In California—the state with the most incarcerated individuals in the country—the rate of re-offense is remarkably high. Currently, there are 112,300 inmates doing time, with 13,500 released every month. But 61% of these former inmates return to prison within three years.
“The guys in the program have so many Aha! moments when they learn how growing food and creating gardens can be a solution for healing many systems: social systems, food systems and environmental systems.”
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.
For more information, and to download pdf versions, please visit our Case Studies page, or contact Phil Mount (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Irena Knezevic (Irena.Knezevic@carleton.ca).
It may look and taste like a roti from any one of this city’s many Caribbean takeout joints: firm, flavourful chicken, well-spiced potatoes, a hearty wrap and throat-tickling mango chutney.
But this $7.65 lunch comes with a few surprises.
First, it’s hospital food. Second, it’s fresh, not processed. Third, the ingredients are all local. The chicken’s from a farm near Bradford, Ont. The bread was made by Norman Sue Bakery in Scarborough. As was the mango chutney. And the potatoes come from Essex Country in southwestern Ontario.
“They weren’t ripening on a truck somewhere,” says Shawn Studholme, executive chef at Sick Kids hospital, of the raw ingredients used daily in the hospital atrium’s Terrace Café kitchen. “If it was picked yesterday, I’ll probably have it today.”
How ’bout them apples?
Since last year, when it received its first $50,000 Greenbelt Foundation grant, the hospital has upped the cafeteria’s quotient of fresh, local food to a whopping 70 per cent. That’s impressive, considering other large institutions, such as Ryerson University, strive to buy 25 per cent of their food from nearby sources.
The University Health Network in Toronto received funding from the Greenbelt Fund to investigate short and long-term opportunities to provide more local food for in-patients in their hospital network. From interviews and an advisory panel, they have identified 3 long term challenges that they would like to submit to the community for input. They have launched an idea crowdsourcing platform where you can vote on the existing ideas, or add your own ideas for review.
Do you eat food? Then you have an opinion! Join in and unleash your ideas to better connect local Ontario food to the hospitals at University Health Network. Read more…
Are you an administrator in a hospital, long-term care facility, university, college or school?
Do you grow fresh food on the property of your institution?
Have you considered the idea?
Please let us know, with a quick trip to our brief online survey only for administrators like you.
You can find more information on our new Survey page, on the FAQ and Lit pages, or by contacting:
Dr. Irena Knezevic, Coordinator, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Wilfrid Laurier University at email@example.com
Dr. Phil Mount, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, at firstname.lastname@example.org