Calgary greenhouse to be built this spring expects to provide thousands of pounds of fresh food year-round

The city of Calgary has a short growing season with its unpredictable climate, but a new year-round greenhouse being built this spring hopes to change that with a community-based food system.

Highfield Farm, located in southeast Calgary, received $277,000 in funding through the Local Food Infrastructure Fund, delivered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The money will go towards building a greenhouse on site that will give Calgarians a local urban farming hub to grow nutrient dense food while also providing a community gathering space.

“If you garden in Calgary, you know the season is pretty late with the end of May or first week of June being the best time to plant and then we of course usually get frost in September,” said Heather Ramshaw, operations manager at Highfield Farm.

“So being able to have this greenhouse for those extreme weather events is going to provide a big space where we can start seedlings, which means we can get plants out earlier in the spring.”

Highfield Farm currently has 15,000 square feet of garden space and more than 200 members who volunteer their time to garden and harvest fresh produce for food access organizations like the Calgary Food Bank and the Mustard Seed.

More than 2,000 pounds of food was harvested last year with 98 per cent going to charitable organizations in need.

“We should easily be able to quadruple that amount of food harvested for now with this greenhouse,” said Ramshaw.

“We’re hoping this year and over the years to kind of develop our sales channels, if possible, to try and cover some of the costs of growing the food as well, but we’re very happy to be able to provide fresh, whole local foods to food access organizations.”

Communications manager with the Calgary Food Bank, Shawna Ogston, says receiving fresh donations of food is always best.

“This greenhouse will ensure that we can get quality nutritious items into our hampers and for Calgarians experiencing food crises so this donation will go a long way,” she said.

“Especially in the fall when the harvest comes along this will now allow a place for canned items and for canning this fresh food so we’re excited to see what happens.”

George Chahal, the MP for Calgary Skyview, adds that this initiative will serve as a benchmark for future growing and composting technologies.

“In Canada, no one should have to go hungry,” he said.

“Strengthening food security for our most vulnerable populations is more important than ever. With support from the Local Food Infrastructure Fund through the Compost Council of Canada, Highfield Farm will be better able to provide fresh, nutritious food for families when they need it most.”

Installation of the greenhouse is expected to be completed by April in time to support the growing of seedlings for this year’s outdoor growing season.

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