Edmonton pilot project will rent garden plots on city lands

A City of Edmonton pilot program will rent out vacant city lands to gardeners for the 2018 growing season.

‘We could potentially change the landscape of the city and integrate edibles and flowers more widely'

One of the vacant lots offered by the city of Edmonton for garden use in the new pilot project. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

A City of Edmonton pilot program will rent out vacant city lands to gardeners for the 2018 growing season.

For a $100 rental fee, gardeners who are approved can grow food or or flowers on municipal land starting April 1. The licence expires after seven months.

"This pilot gives us a chance to test out other types of land tenure in ways where we might look at unconventional types of public land that could be used for growing food or for growing flowers," said Kathryn Lennon, a principal planner with the city.

"We could potentially change the landscape of the city and integrate edibles and flowers more widely into the environment that we see every day."

A map shows the vacant lots offered by the city as part of the Vacant Lots for Urban Agriculture pilot. (Google Maps)

Almost 100 available lots have been posted on the city's website. They range from 45 to 400 square metres, while many are approximately 200 square metres. Many of them are between homes in residential neighbourhoods.

The rental licence costs $100 plus a $100 deposit, which is returned after the growing season ends pending the clean up of the lot.

"It's a bit of an experiment. I really have to applaud the city for making this available," said Dustin Bajer, a sustainable food advocate.

The city recommends gardeners use raised beds because it can't guarantee the quality of the soil below.

"It will be really interesting to see what models and what the uptake is this growing season," Bajer said.

Dustin Bajer, a sustainable food advocate, applauds the city's new gardening pilot, but says it will be challenging for gardeners. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Growers' harvests cannot be sold for profit, according to the city. The production of cannabis and livestock, which includes hens and bees, will not be allowed on the land either.

Not everyone supports the project. Lennon says some neighbours of the lots are skeptical.

"All that feedback is really valuable," Lennon said. "It will help us tweak the pilot."

The city plans to monitor the progress of the project by holding site inspections and discussion groups.

Applications for the pilot will be available on Feb. 12 with a deadline to apply by April 15.

Licence holders will have first dibs to renew their plots if the program continues in 2019.

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca