Contributed by Just Food
This past summer saw the National Capital Commission (NCC), Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and many dignitaries across all levels of government partnering with Just Food for the signing of a 25-year lease for the Just Food Farm, a community food and sustainable agriculture hub in the National Capital Greenbelt.
Started in 2012 with temporary leases, the Just Food Farm is where people and projects come together to model and inspire small-scale, viable agriculture businesses and initiatives in the Ottawa region. Based on a farmstead on the west side of Blackburn Hamlet, the Just Food Farm is ideally situated on the 94 bus route and along bike paths, with a unique network of pathways that make exploring the varied activities a pleasure.
Barn on Just Food Farm. Photo courtesy Just Food.
It is located between a residential area and the ecologically protected Green's Creek corridor, with the intent to demonstrate that agriculture can flourish in, and strengthen, both of these spatial contexts. Located at the site of the old NCC tree nursery, Just Food is maintaining the windbreaks and will introduce edible trees, thus maintaining the beauty of the area.
The Just Food Farm represents many things to many people. First, it's an important step towards the NCC's strategy for sustainable agriculture. It's also an important asset in increasing local, sustainable food production in the Ottawa region by encouraging new entrants to agriculture, providing infrastructure for their development and growth, and presenting an important showcase for urban-adjacent agriculture in the region.
Just Food Start-up Farm Program
Initially funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, this program just completed its third year. The goal of the program is to increase access to opportunities for a diversity of new farmers (young people, second careerists and New Canadians), providing shared access to land, equipment, infrastructure and training, and enable more new farmers in the Ottawa region to start their own successful farm business. While providing resources to farmers on-site, many resources are also available for anyone interested in starting a farm anywhere in the region.
Herbivor field, mid-summer, Just Food Farm. Photo courtesy Just Food.
This past summer, 18 separate businesses and partner projects were on site. These farmers manage their own farm projects, starting on a quarter-acre of land each in their first year. Upon successful completion of their first growing season, test-croppers who want to continue and expand their project are eligible to scale up to a half-acre plot in their second year, and a full acre in their third.
Test-croppers who complete their first growing season may decide not to continue growing at the Just Food Farm the following year. This is also considered a successful outcome of the program, as participants can make informed decisions about a farming career without having taken on major risks.
Farmstand on Just Food Farm. Photo courtesy Just Food.
Community Partners on Site
is a half acre Food Forest to act as a demonstration, education and propagation site. This is a pilot project to see what potential there is for more city-wide edible spaces projects. The project examines ecosystem services such as erosion control, on-site water retention, wildlife habitat and fodder, soil fertility building and native species conservation.
Radical Homestead Apiary is a bee operation on site with an introductory beekeeping program offered on yearly basis. Registration is now open for the 2016 program
Apiary on Just Food Farm. Photo courtesy Just Food.
The Wild Garden focuses on native herbs, and includes production of plant-based products and education. Information on fall workshops can be found here
The Karen Learning and Education Opportunities Community Farm is a one-acre plot of land on the property on which a local Karen refugee community share information on farming practices and grow local produce for their community.
Farmworks is a social enterprise in partnership with Operation Come Home, offering local youth an opportunity to learn farm and food production skills on the Just Food farm. The goal of this project is to provide a broad range of skills and experiences to youth, enhancing both personal and professional skills through their FarmWorks experience.
Just Food is encouraging everyone -- individuals, organizations and businesses alike -- to get involved.
Planting saplings, Just Food Farm. Photo courtesy Just Food.
Once tilled by farm families who grew vegetables and grains and raised farm animals, the land has fallen into disuse. Part of the Just Food mandate is to revive it and build a new community and food security resource for all Ottawans for generations to come. At the basis of this is the need to tend to the soil -- the life source for all farming and food. Just Food and the broader community will need to undo decades-worth of neglect to provide new farmers training on site with the healthy soil they need.
Agricultural production isn't the only activity planned for the farm. Long-term plans for the Just Food Farm include maintaining the focus of people and projects coming together to model and inspire sustainability practices of all kind.
if you have a project that you are interested in having on site.
Donations to the Healthy Soil Fund can be made here
The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.
Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.