We've all heard about farm to table, but what about inner-city to farm?
That's precisely what the West Broadway Community Organization has been doing with their Good Food Club program for the past decade.
It introduces West Broadway community members, primarily inner-city residents, to organic farming practices at the Wiens and Buys' family farms south of Winnipeg. Participants help work the land and earn "sweat equity" points, which they can redeem by purchasing food they helped harvest.
"It helps with food security right away," said Damien Gagné, Good Food Club coordinator. "It empowers the people, they feel like they've done a good days work... And it shows them the fruits of their labour."
Graeme Buys with his flock and border collie. (Mike Green)
One hour of farm work will give you 10 points, about the equivalent of $10, which can then be used to buy organic produce, eggs and meat directly through the program.
This, combined with an 80 per cent off-set covered by various foundation and private donations to the program, means that volunteers can purchase a $10 bundle of organic goods for a mere $2.
"Why should low income people be forced to eat Chinese noodles and mac n' cheese?" said Gagné. "We're providing organic vegetables at half the prices you'd find at a store -- maybe less. And it's the freshest, best, healthiest food you can get."
It also works out nicely for the farmers, like Graeme Buys, who throughout the summer months (the farm trips begin in July) gets to share his skill set with people who really want to be there. On the Buys farm participants learn about working with animals like his flock of sheep, as well as weeding, watering, fertilizing and harvesting vegetables.
"We find most people to be really happy to be out of the city, and get a change of pace in their lives," said Buys. "The change that people get from being out in the country, around the animals, around the nature, around plants; it can be quite a change they get in just two hours."