Hope Blooms no longer in ‘legal grey zone’
New bylaw allows non-profit groups to sell produce grown on city land
It turns out a group of young Halifax entrepreneurs, who stole the hearts of Canadians on CBC Dragons' Den, were actually breaking the law.
Hope Blooms started as a community garden project with less than a dozen kids. The students planted seeds and tended crops in an abandoned lot in their neighbourhood, turning their produce into a line of organic salad dressings sold at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market.
The community garden project soon grew so much that the 43 young people from north-end Halifax were granted $40,000 from the Dragons — no strings attached — to build a new greenhouse to accommodate their growing business.
As it turns out, it was against the rules to sell produce grown on city land.
But a new Halifax Regional Municipality bylaw governing community gardens will allow Hope Blooms, and other non-profits like them, to sell the produce they grow on city land.
However, profits must be put back into the garden or into educational programs.
Will Hill, a community food planner with the Ecology Action Centre, said the Hope Blooms project really got things moving.
"Operations such as that, operate in kind of a legal grey area, and Hope Blooms was really instrumental in moving this conversation forward," he said.
There are at least 30 community gardens in Halifax.
Colleen Ritchie is hoping to start a garden at Metro Turning Point, an emergency shelter for men in Halifax.
With a start up cost of around $30,000, selling vegetables could help recoup costs — and teach her clients about entrepreneurship.
"It certainly means another stream of revenue, which is amazing whenever you're looking at a not-for-profit project," she said.
Marjorie Willison,a long-time member of the Spryfield Urban Farm, thinks this is a great move forward.
“It fits with the time, it fits with people's growing interest in food. It's a careful first step in what, I hope, would be an ever-expanding system that enables people to buy and sell food," she said.