Written by Denise Deby.
Just Food, which promotes sustainable and equitable food in Ottawa, launched the Just Food Farm last year. Located on Greenbelt land west of Blackburn Hamlet, the farm is intended to demonstrate the potential of urban food production as part of a sustainable food system in Ottawa.
This summer, Just Food offered budding farmers a chance to run a farming business on Just Food Farm land. The Just Food Start-Up Farm Program provided about 10 people with access to land, shared equipment and training. The farmers, selected from about 20 applicants, all had farming or market gardening experience, but the Start-Up Farm Program gave them the chance to work through all aspects of an organic farming business, without having to invest in their own land and infrastructure at the outset. They can access the land for up to three years, after which Just Food will assist them to continue farming off-site if they decide to stick with it. By then, they’ll have experience, customers and an idea of whether local, organic food production is for them.
The farmers have been hard at work this season, and you can check out the fruits of their labour at the Just Food Farm Gate stand. They’ll be selling seasonal vegetables, fruits, herbs and wild foods on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 from 4-7 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. until October 6. On Saturday, October 12 they’ll hold a special Thanksgiving sale from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The farm gate stand is at the Just Food Farm, 2389 Pepin Court off Innes.
While you’re there, you’ll get to meet some of the farmers (some are also selling their produce through CSAs or directly to retail outlets). Many of them have significant local or international farming experience and they’re passionate about local and sustainable food. You can find out more about them at http://www.justfood.ca/startupfarmprogram/about-the-farms.php. Just Food is collaborating with Operation Come Home and Karen Learning and Educational Opportunities to include youth and new Canadians among the farmers, and is looking into new partnerships to make food and farming more accessible to more people.
If the idea of trying out farming interests you, you can check out the program at an information session and open house on Wednesday, September 18 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Just Food Farm.
Just Food will be running another Start-Up Farm program in 2014. The deadline for applications is October 31, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.
There’ll also be a Farm Tour on Tuesday, September 24 at 6:30-8:00 p.m. for people who’d like to see what the Just Food Farm is all about. The session includes information on Just Food’s long-term plans for the site, so if you’re interested in local food, urban farming, community gardening, nature conservation or anything food-related, you might want to check it out.
Whether or not you’re participating in the Start-Up Farm program, you can register for Just Food’s farmer training courses. The next two are Exploring the New Farm Dream—Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You? and Business Planning for Start-Up Farmers. There’s more information at http://www.justfood.ca/startupfarmprogram/farmer-training.php.
If you have questions about any aspect of the Just Food program, you can contact Leela Ramachandran, Manager of Farm Programs at leela [at] justfood [dot] ca or tel. 613-699-8650 ext. 15.
Just Food is an impressive organization that’s out to create an equitable and sustainable food system, from seed to table to compost bin. With a small staff but a huge reach, it’s a hub for anything and everything related to Ottawa’s food system. Just Food produces a buy local food guide, holds food growing and preservation workshops, hosts the Community Gardening Network of Ottawa and Savour Ottawa, and helped lead the development of a food action plan for Ottawa. Just Food is gradually turning the farm site into a community food and sustainable agriculture hub.