Halifax eyes urban gardening to increase food security

Pat Fogarty owns and operates Fogarty's Market Garden, which sells food grown on his Hammonds Plains residential farm. (Fogarty's Market Garden - image credit)
Pat Fogarty owns and operates Fogarty's Market Garden, which sells food grown on his Hammonds Plains residential farm. (Fogarty's Market Garden - image credit)

Some Halifax-area residents are giving a green thumb's up to the city's proposed plan to remove barriers so people can sell produce that was grown on their properties.

A staff report was first requested two years ago, but a vote will be held at Tuesday's council meeting to begin the process to help encourage what are known as "market gardens."

This process will look at whether amendments are needed to the municipality's land-use regulations and planning strategies.

Citing a 2018 study on household food security in Canada, the city says Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity of any province. At 16.7 per cent, the Halifax region is more food insecure than the national average of 12.7 per cent.

Niki Jabbour, a well-known Nova Scotian gardener, writer and contributor to CBC Radio's Maritime Noon, said she supports initiatives to improve food security.

Submitted by Niki Jabbour
Submitted by Niki Jabbour

"It could be part of a greater plan, hopefully in the near future," Jabbour said.

"I've been hearing from lots of gardeners over the past couple of years, they would love the opportunity to be able to sell some of the excess produce they grow."

Reducing environmental impact

Jabbour said market gardening should be done not only to increase food security, but also for the environmental impact of reducing how far food has to travel.

Jabbour said urban gardening cannot realistically grow all of the food that a family eats, but it can have an impact on the weekly grocery bill and put money in pocketbooks that wasn't there before.

She said Halifax should be looking to places in Europe and the United Kingdom that are "leaps and bounds ahead of us in producing local food in urban areas."

Pat Fogarty of Fogarty's Market Garden operates a mobile market from his solar-powered bus and sells produce from his two-hectare residential farm in Hammonds Plains, N.S.

Incentives to gardeners

He said rather than just encouraging market gardens, the municipality should provide incentives to people.

Fogarty said he and a few other farmers have been working on a list of measures to present to the city, including property tax concessions for people who want to use their property to produce food for local residents.

He said food security should be a priority for government and is more important than other matters, such as installing swing sets or playgrounds.

Fogarty's Market Garden
Fogarty's Market Garden

Kolade Kolawole-Boboye, a director with Hope Blooms, a community-driven agricultural and culinary program for youth in north-end Halifax, said urban gardening provides people with a different level of understanding about food.

He said he's seen a greater awareness of the importance of gardening in the city.

"It's very cool that there is the mission to really utilize space in the inner cities ... going down that direction will empower a lot of people to be able to start growing their own food," he said.

Kolawole-Boboye said growing food helps bring communities together.

The municipality said if it decides to implement amendments to allow widespread market gardening, its charter requires public participation in the process.

Hope Blooms
Hope Blooms

Fogarty said that that consultation cannot come soon enough.

"This is food security. This is a pretty serious thing. It's been over two years now, right?" he said.

"It's now time to get this moving, get forward, get in front of the city. And what I would like to see is an actual dialogue with the city, with people like myself."