Farm takes root in Blackburn Hamlet
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Sep 19, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Farm takes root in Blackburn Hamlet

Orleans News

Community -Farms may conjure up images of long, windy rural roads and families that span generations.

The Just Food Farm is more like a community centre.

It can be accessed by the 94 and 97 bus routes, is home to part-time farmers who come and go, community programs for street-involved youth, and offers recreational walking paths for anyone who chooses.

News The Blackburn Hamlet farm is run by Just Food, an incorporated nonprofit on NCC land. The 40 hectare farm has small plots that act as training farms, managed by individuals or pairs.

For $1,600, farmers in the Start-Up Farm program get the plots, which are cleared and prepped for farming, and access to farm equipment, and the ability to sell produce during the farm gate sales on the property.

Mercury They also get access to training seminars -which are also open to the public to learn farming and business skills.

It's a much more feasible option for someone interested in agriculture than purchasing and taking over their giant property and set of farming equipment and provides a stepping stone that is hard to find.

"The intermediary wasn't there," said Cathleen Kneen, the Just Food board chairwoman. "There was no way to actually learn to farm."

The nine plots grow a large range of fruits and vegetables, from watermelon to wild herbs, depending what the farmers want to plant.

Most of the farmers have other jobs, and farm on the side. In Carp resident Jeremy Foss's case, he works a construction job twice a week to be able to afford to be on his farm plot, which he attends to the other five days of the week.

"I'm not doing this for the money," he said. "I'm doing it because it's awesome. To have all this right here, we could begin to address some food security issues."

Foss said he doesn't mind the drive from Carp because it's difficult to find suitable land that hasn't been polluted by industrial agriculture. He grows 95 different types of plants on his plot.

On the Just Food Farm, the plots will move to different spots on the property next year, which is better for the land. As well, farmers will be moving to larger -and in 2015, 0.4 hectare plots if they wish.

After that, the idea is the farmers will be ready to selfsustain away from the Just Food property, said farm program manager Leela Ramachandran. Just Food is hoping at that point to be able to liaise with the NCC to find them suitable spots in the Greenbelt to rent.

"We're really seeing an emergence of a new type of farmer," she said.

The Start-Up Farm program also includes the FarmWorks program. It sees at-risk youth from Operation Come Home managing a plot and growing food, then selling it from June to mid-October.

Ramachandran said the community has been accepting of the farm, and eager to purchase locally-grown food. The farm is public property, and open for residents to walk along the paths, so it's common for residents taking a stroll to see the farmers hard at work.

On Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m., the farm staff will hold a tour for any interested members of the public. The Just Food Farm is located at 2389 Pepin Court just off Innes Road. Farmers from the programs also participate in a produce sale Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

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