A City of Edmonton farm is growing fresh, local produce for Edmontonians who need it most.
Started in the summer of 2020, the City Farm was a pilot project by the city to help get food to Edmontonians who suffered hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The farm is located at the Old Man Creek Nursery, on city land north of Sherwood Park.
Vegetables are grown, harvested and delivered to Edmonton's Food Bank.
"In response to COVID, a lot of people have experienced personal hardships or more difficulties than they would regularly, so there is an added demand to the food bank," said Stacey Schultz, management supervisor for the city's horticulture operations.
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"What we're able to donate helps relieve some pressure from them."
The land, owned by the City of Edmonton, is normally used to store trees and shrubs.
The fields where the food is grown would otherwise be resting. City horticulture workers cared for the land and produce. On average, it's a four-person team, whose primary experience is not vegetable production.
Chard, carrots and zucchini
The city consulted the food bank to determine what produce it would need.
This year, the farm has grown a variety of summer squash, zucchini, kale, Swiss chard, carrots, corn and winter squash for storage on five acres of land, down from 10 acres last year.
In 2020, the farm harvested and distributed 32,727 pounds of food to several Edmonton organizations. To date this year, it has delivered more than 25,000 pounds of produce to Edmonton's Food Bank.
Food bank executive director Marjorie Bencz said the food bank is thrilled to have the extra fresh produce available for the many organizations it supplies.
"It's a privilege to be able to share this food out through our network of almost 300 agencies, churches and food depots and help those less fortunate," Bencz said.
The produce goes quickly — sometimes supplies last only a few days, especially given the increased demand that came with the pandemic.
"They've been bringing items in over the last few weeks and I think they still have lots to harvest for us so all of it is appreciated," Bencz said.
Despite the hot and dry weather, Schultz said the team was determined to meet the same goals as last year.
"It's been an amazing experience on so many levels," she said.
"Each person that has the privilege to work out here feels a personal connection to their community. Our goal is to provide service and support to Edmontonians that need it the most."
While this was a pandemic project, Schultz says they are looking at implementing it into the 2022 work plan at the end of this season.