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.
“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.
Led by postdoctoral researchers Phil Mount and Irena Knezevic, this three-year project will look at the viability of on-site food production at public institutions, through collaborative arrangements with local food producers.
Project SOIL is funded by the New Directions Research Program of the Ontario Ministries of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs.
The project builds on emerging production models that can flexibly adapt to institutional resources (including SPIn or Small Plot Intensive farming), as well as land tenure models that could contribute to community food production, health and well-being – such as Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital’s donation of land to a social-purpose business (GreenWerks) that grows food for the hospital, local markets, and food bank.
The feasibility of alternatives will be explored by:
- surveying public institutions to identify capacity to support food production;
- interviewing institutional key informants to understand opportunities/constraints; and
- performing in-depth site analyses to explore food production models and cooperative opportunities with existing local food networks.
Case studies and cost/revenue flows will help to guide three innovative and groundbreaking food production pilot projects. These pilots will test the therapeutic benefits at gardens on the properties of Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital -which focuses on post acute stroke rehabilitation- and Homewood Health Centre, a leading addiction and mental health treatment facility. The multiple values of the food and synergistic benefits produced from the soil on these properties will be explored at these health facilities, and also at the Food School Farm, Centre Wellington District High School’s radical participatory agroecological education program that looks to produce “critical and confident food growers and consumers”.
Return often; this site will expand organically, reflecting the growth of the project.