An urban farm in Calgary has received $227,000 from the federal government to build an all-year-round greenhouse.
Since 2019, Highfield Regenerative Farm has been growing produce in Calgary's southeast on a piece of vacant land, which it leases from the city. The new greenhouse will allow the farm to expand its short growing season and help feed those most in need.
The money comes from the Local Food Infrastructure Fund, an initiative from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to support sustainable, community-based food systems.
"We're hoping to kind of expand our sales channels a little bit to try and recoup some of those costs, of course, of growing the food," said Heather Ramshaw, operations manager at Highfield Farm.
"But there's always going to be a very strong focus on donating it to food access programs in the city. "
Last year, Highfield Farm produced about 900 kilograms of fresh vegetables, most of it going to the Calgary Food Bank and The Mustard Seed, a local non-profit that provides emergency shelter and other resources for Calgary's homeless population.
"In Canada, no one should have to go hungry. Strengthening food security for our most vulnerable populations is more important than ever," said George Chahal, the MP for Calgary Skyview, in a news release.
With its new funds, Highfield Farm "will be better able to provide fresh, nutritious food for families when they need it most," Chahal said.
Fresh produce for local shelters
Andrew Millar is the basic services manager for The Mustard Seed. He said the organization received produce from Highfield Farm all throughout the summer. Before Highfield Farm's donations, Millar said, The Mustard Seed would never have been able to serve quality fresh vegetables at its Foothills Shelter.
"We had firm, fresh lettuce … and tomatoes and beets. So, the kitchen was, like, making beet salad, putting fresh peppers in sauces," said Millar.
"It just increased the nutritional quality and taste of the food."
The fresh produce also allowed The Mustard Seed to cook vegetarian meals, Millar said. The Foothills Shelter staff serve about 100 people every day for lunch and around 200 people for dinner, he said.
Though The Mustard Seed has no formal agreement with the farm, Millar said it would be great news if Highfield Farm's year-round greenhouse could mean more donations to local shelters.
"We don't want to be too greedy, but, you know, we're happy to receive what we do," Millar said.
Protecting sensitive crops
Ramshaw said the greenhouse will allow the farm to protect some of its more sensitive crops.
"Those crops, they'll be safeguarded by being in the greenhouse and protected from that temperature swing," she said. "So, then instead of losing all of our tomatoes in September, we'll hopefully … continue harvesting them honestly, even through the winter."
Half of the new greenhouse will be used as a "classroom community space" to offer workshops and programs to the public, according to Ramshaw.
Overall, 2022 is looking to be a big year for Highfield Farm. In addition to the greenhouse, Ramshaw said, the farm hopes to gain more volunteers, hire some farmhands and quadruple the amount of food grown last year.
Ramshaw expects the greenhouse to be open by mid-April.
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