In celebration of the construction of two greenhouses, a non-profit urban farm in London has pledged to grow more nutritious food for Londoners this year.
"Those greenhouses will allow us to lengthen the growing season, allowing us to begin earlier and finish later.” According to Becky Ellis, executive director of Urban Roots London, "It will mean we can feed more people."
Due to rising food prices, the nonprofit organization expects to harvest 26,000 pounds this year, up from 22,000 last year, according to Ellis.
The Middlesex-London health unit will use the majority of that money, or roughly 15,000 pounds, to fund its pop-up markets that provide free food, she said.
According to Ellis, the remainder will be sold for less than market value.
"Providing people with food that is very affordable is our top priority. We think everyone has a right to wholesome, mouthwatering, fresh food that was produced organically,” she added.
The first summer of Urban Roots London, which started in 2017, saw only 500 pounds of growth. With the help of volunteers, the organization increased its staff this year to four full-time employees and seven summer employees.
The nonprofit has three locations where it converts vacant municipal land into farms, with Norland Avenue's one-acre parcel at Highbury Avenue and Hamilton Road being the largest.
The food is grown and harvested by employees and volunteers, who also organize social and educational events.
The heated greenhouses were built thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which also enabled the organization to restart community events last summer that had dwindled due to the epidemic, according to Ellis.
"That's a crucial component of urban agriculture. It encourages ties to one another, to the land, to neighborhoods, and of course, to food.”
On Saturday, supporters of Urban Roots gathered at the organization's farm on Norland Avenue to celebrate the opening of the greenhouse with local and provincial lawmakers.
MPP Teresa Armstrong of London-Fanshawe applauded Urban Roots for its efforts in the community and schools.
Armstrong added, "You're not just raising food; you're raising the next generation." "Growing food also helps people feel good about themselves, enjoy being outside, and feel accomplished."
Ward 11 Coun Skylar Franke, who founded an environmental organization herself, noted that people "who are scrappy and independent and want to see things happen" support food and ecological movements.”
"Most of the time, there is a lot of energy, but perhaps not always the final vision and outcome. She commended the organization for coming together, securing money, assembling a solid staff, and carrying out the objective.”
"My ideal city would have a community farm in every neighborhood, and you're showing that it's feasible."
Visit urbanrootslondon.ca for additional information, to donate, or to volunteer.
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