Ottawa’s Community Farm

Written by Denise Deby.

Just Food barn - D. Deby

Just Food has operated a working farm on Greenbelt land near Blackburn Hamlet since 2012. It supports new farmers to learn organic farming, and partners with area farmers and community groups on projects that improve access to sustainable food in the Ottawa region.

A couple of weeks ago, Just Food and the National Capital Commission signed a 25-year lease for a community farm on 150 acres of land at the site.

The agreement means that Just Food can continue to offer space and programs to support farmers, provide public education on food issues and help create a viable, healthy and sustainable local food system.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s growing on site these days, check out the Just Food Start-Up Farm Program farmers. Their vegetables, herbs, wild and forest foods, honey and other products are available to buy at the Just Food farm stand or from the farmers directly.

Just Food has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it grow. They’re welcoming donations to upgrade the soil to make the land more productive. (The campaign coincides with the 2015 International Year of Soils.)

As well, anyone can become a member of Just Food. More information here.

From Just Food:

Just Food is a community-based, non-profit organization that has been working towards vibrant, just and sustainable food and farming systems in the Ottawa region since 2003.  In addition to the now established Just Food Farm, Just Food programs include Savour Ottawa, the Community Gardening Network of Ottawa, Buy Local Food Program (including the Ottawa Food Hub), and diverse food policy and food access initiatives.”

Update: Just Food launches the Farm Stand on Sunday, July 26! Check out the fresh, local produce grown by Just Food farmers.

More Ways to Eat Local

Written by Denise Deby.

CSA share

A few posts ago I wrote about where to obtain CSA shares of vegetables and other foods from local farms.

There are plenty of other ways to get fresh, local produce on your plate. Here are a few:

Savour Ottawa Online

Savour Ottawa Online is a weekly service that lets you select and order food from local producers and pick it up at the Parkdale Field House. With Savour Ottawa, you visit the online marketplace, choose whichever products you’d like, and your order will be ready for pickup on the designated day a few days later. There’s everything from vegetables and meats to baked goods, prepared meals and personal care products.

Ottawa Good Food Box

A group of Ottawa organizations got together a few years ago and decided to create a way for people to obtain groceries closer to home and at affordable prices. They launched the Ottawa Good Food Box, which buys in bulk so members can get fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. Not all of the food is locally sourced, but organizers strive to obtain produce as locally and affordably as possible. Anyone can participate in the monthly service, which offers a range of box sizes and types (including an organic box). Check the map to find the closest distribution site near you.

Good Food Markets

Good Food Markets bring food to communities that are underserved by regular grocery stores. At the markets, you’ll find a variety of fruits, vegetables and dry goods, as well as music and other community activities. Check the website for locations and dates.

Market Mobile

The same group that brought about the Good Food Markets has launched Market Mobile, kind of a grocery store on wheels that brings healthy, affordable food to even more neighbourhoods. Find the schedule and locations on their website.

More local food sources

Ottawa’s numerous farmers’ markets offer fresh produce and other foods as well as a sense of community. Sometimes area farmers have farm gate stands where you can buy local, too. Check out Just Food’s Buy Local Grow Local Food Guide for more options.



Where to Find Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Written by Denise Deby.

CSA bounty - D Deby

Fresh vegetables, from a local farm to your kitchen: that’s community-supported agriculture (CSA).

With CSAs, you pay a farm for a “share” in what it produces over the season, and the farmers provide you with a regular order of fresh vegetables, usually every week.

CSAs are a great way to eat local; many of the farms are organic. You’ll also be supporting local food producers, who benefit through a more stable income source. Of course, you’ll be getting a variety of healthy produce, usually vegetables and herbs. Some CSAs allow you to order eggs, poultry, beef or other products.

Most CSAs offer half-shares or a range of share sizes depending on how much you think you can use. They usually also have ways to work around your holidays, if you’re away for part of the summer.

The producers often include newsletters with recipes, organize farm visits or have other ways of engaging their customers, so you get to try new foods as well as get to know more about the people growing the food.

There are more farms than ever offering CSAs around Ottawa. Farms usually deliver to drop-off points around the city, so you can look at their offerings and find one that delivers near you.

You can search for CSAs on Just Food’s map at C.S.A. also provides a map of CSAs by drop-off point and lists several local CSA farms. There’s also the Ontario CSA Farm Directory at I’ve had CSAs from Roots and Shoots and from Karen Farm at the Just Food Farm, but as you can see there are lots of options. Farms and CSA offerings vary, so check that too.

Here’s a list of CSA farms I compiled, in alphabetical order, with links to their websites. Check the websites or contact the farms directly to confirm whether they’re offering CSAs—and do let me know if I’ve missed any.

Arc Acres

Aubin Farm

Busy Beaver Farm

Beat Greens Garden

Bluegrass Farm

Britannia Backyard Edibles

Bunching Onions

Bryson Farms

Carrot Boots Farm

Covenant Farm

Day Brighteners

Ekoroot Farm

Elm Tree Farm

Emabel Farm


Ferme aux pleines saveurs

Ferme Lève-tôt

Foster Family Farm

Funny Duck Farms

Gableridge Farm

Grazing Days (beef)

Herbivor Farm

Heritage Harvest Farm

Jambican Studio Gardens

Juniper Farm

KLEO Karen Community Farm

Knotty Bottoms Farm

Luxy Farm

Mike’s Garden Harvest

Our Farm

Our Little Farm

Rainbow Heritage Garden

Riverglen Biodynamic Farm

Riverside Garden

Rochon Gardens

Rock-N-Horse Farm

Roots and Shoots Farm

Roots Down Organic Farm

Saffire Farms

Teamwork CSA / Maplelane Farm

Threefold Farm

The Veggie Underground

Waratah Downs Organic Farm

Whitsend Market Garden

The Wild Garden (wild food and herbs)



Planting the Garden

Written by Denise Deby.

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I’m a gardener-in-progress—meaning I’m learning something new every year about growing my own vegetables. My garden so far has been pretty small, my planting area shady, so I’m often researching what to grow.

This year I’ve been on the hunt for healthy seeds and seedlings—those adapted to local conditions, free of pesticides, grown in an environmentally-friendly way and (ideally) organic. While I haven’t started my own seeds, it’s not too late to find seedlings that others have kindly started growing for me.

The Gloucester Horticultural Society holds its East End Plant Sale on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at North Gloucester Public Library (2036 Ogilvie Rd.) from 9 a.m.-noon. They’ll be selling shrubs, perennials, organic and heritage seedling vegetable plants.

Greta’s Organic Gardens (399 River Rd., Gloucester) is a great source of organic seeds. She’s selling heirloom tomatoes, peppers and much more from her greenhouse between May 15 and June 24 (9 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Weds.).

Added: Beat Greens Garden will be selling organic and heirloom seedlings at Ravenswing Arts and Music Fair on Sunday, May 24.

For other kinds of plants as well, the Ottawa Horticultural Society holds its annual plant auction and sale on Tuesday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Tom Brown Arena.

At Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s Annual Native Plant Sale, experts will be on hand to advise on what flowering plants will attract birds, butterflies and other pollinators. It’s on Saturday, June 6, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Vegetable seedlings (some local and organic) can be purchased from local farmers directly or at Ottawa farmers’ markets: the ByWard Market, the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, the Main Farmers’ Market, the Parkdale Market, the Ottawa Organic Farmers’ Market and others (check OttawaStart’s list of markets for links).

Ottawa has quite a few local nurseries; the Canadian Wildlife Federation has a list of nurseries that sell native plants. Hardware and grocery stores have garden centres, too. But check first that the plants they carry haven’t been treated with neonicotinoids—pesticides that are systemic (i.e., absorbed by all parts of a plant) and associated with killing bee populations. Friends of the Earth Canada has a chart outlining which retailers have stopped carrying plants with neonics.

Did I miss any good plant sources? Please let me know in the comments.

West End Well Grand Opening

Written by Denise Deby.

West End Well - Denise Deby photo

Ottawa’s new food co-op, West End Well, is up and running, and is holding a grand opening to celebrate. Everyone is welcome to drop by Friday, Sept. 26-Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 to check out the co-operative café, grocery store and community space.

The West End Well was created by community members as a place to find local, healthy food, to connect with others and to learn how to live more sustainably (hence the motto “Nourishment for a Change”).

As well as good food, they offer music and storytelling sessions, workshops on sustainability issues, a lending library and more. As a co-operative, the Well is owned by its members. Anyone can join, although you can be a customer without being a member. (There’s more background on the West End Well in my previous post.)

Here’s the Grand Opening weekend schedule:

Friday, Sept. 26:  An evening of music with Moonfruits, 8-10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Family activities 10:30 a.m.-noon; programming fair 1-3 p.m.; live entertainment 3-5 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 28: Family activities 10:30 a.m.-noon; opening ceremony 1-2 p.m.; cocktail party with free food samples 3-5 p.m.

See the West End Well’s regular calendar for upcoming events. (Among the offerings: a screening of The Economics of Happiness on Sept. 30, Tellings at the Well storytelling on Oct. 10, a talk on Being a Good Food Citizen on Oct. 21 and the launch of Ottawa Food by Don and Jennifer Chow of foodiePrints on Oct. 29.)

The West End Well also welcomes investors—here’s a short clip about that.

Small Farming and “The Market Gardener” Launch

Written by Denise Deby. Thanks to Leela Ramachandran, Manager of Farm Programs at Just Food, for information.


Interested in knowing what goes into running a very small (and profitable) organic farm?

Just Food is hosting the launch of The Market Gardener: A Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (New Society Publishers, 2014), with author, farmer and local food systems advocate Jean-Martin Fortier. Jean-Martin and his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, run Les Jardins de la Grelinette, a Québec micro-farm.

It’s a pretty interesting story: Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène explain that they feed more than 200 families and support their household on their 1.5 acres, using low-tech, high-yield methods (and almost no fossil fuels) to supply produce for their CSA shares and market stands.

You can find out more about their farm on their website.

The launch is on Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. at Dominion-Chalmers United Church, 355 Cooper St. (doors open 6:30 p.m.) $5 admission. Copies of the book will be available to buy.

**If you’re inspired to think about farming yourself, check out Just Food’s listing of farm internships (exchanging labour for training) and job opportunities (paid).**

Building Resilience Through a Community Food Centre: The West End Well Co-op

Written by Denise Deby.

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What if you had a place in your neighbourhood where you could stop in for a fresh, local meal, stock up on organic groceries, pick up your Community Shared Agriculture order, hear some live music, attend a yoga or cooking class, borrow a book on permaculture or meet up with friends for a coffee or tea?

Now, what if you and other people in your community actually owned that place, and decided what it would offer?

That’s the West End Well Co-op, opening at 969 Wellington St. West in Hintonburg this spring.

The West End Well is part café, part organic grocery store and part meeting and learning space. The café, to be operated by Jacqueline Jolliffe of the popular food truck Stone Soup Foodworks, will offer freshly-prepared meals using seasonal, local ingredients. The grocery will sell produce, eggs, meat, dairy and dried goods from local farmers and producers, and there’ll be a coffee house space, a teaching kitchen, workshop rooms, and offices for sustainability-minded businesses and organizations.

The West End Well Co-op’s motto is “nourishment for a change.” Its purpose is to enhance people’s access to local, healthy food, but also to nourish mind and spirit as well as body.

“It’s a gathering place for people to support each other in the transition to a more sustainable and socially just society,” explains West End Well co-founder Bill Shields. Recognizing that we’re all going through this transition, the Co-op offers “unconditional welcome” to everyone.

The West End Well is a co-operative, and a social enterprise. That means it’s owned by its members, and run using a business model where profits are reinvested in meeting the Co-op’s social and environmental objectives. For a $50 lifetime membership fee, members can vote, run for the co-op board, and set policies. (Non-members can still shop there, and the Co-op will accommodate people who can’t afford the fee.)

The Co-op has raised enough community financing, managed through a holding company, to buy and renovate its own building. It’s also selling preference shares to raise funds for setup and operations for the first couple of years. It’s tapping into the wisdom of other food-centred co-operatives in Ontario through the Local Organic Food Co-ops network, and lots of people are volunteering their time and expertise to get the Co-op up and running.

The West End Well was created by a group of residents, many of whom have been active in the community network Sustainable Living Ottawa West (SLOWest). In order to make the building and operations as sustainable as possible, the West End Well is being designed using permaculture principles, with energy efficiency, minimal waste, affordability and fair wages for producers in mind.

If you’d like more information on the West End Well Co-op, or are interested in becoming a member, buying shares or volunteering, you can contact them through their website, or attend an information session. The next one is on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at the Hintonburg Community Centre, 1064 Wellington St. West from 7-9 pm.; RSVP to info [at] westendwell [dot] ca. Another session is planned for Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 7-9 p.m.