Calgary

Non-profit urban farm taking food production into their own hands

Grow Calgary is offering a free certificate course in small-scale agricultural farm management.

50-hour course teaches volunteers ins and outs of small-scale farming

Grow Calgary's new location is just north of the city near Balzac. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Franca Perri was born and raised in Calgary. Since she started volunteering with Grow Calgary a couple of weeks ago, she is really loving the farm life.

"I have always been a city girl, but I've always loved the land. So I've always been called to the land," Perri said. 

Perri is one of about 50 volunteers taking a small-scale agricultural farm management certificate course with Grow Calgary, a non-profit farm organization.

The free course teaches advanced urban farming practices such as soil management, farm design, crop selection and seeding. 

Volunteers are working towards a small-scale farm management certificate. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Chelsea Klinke, executive director of Grow Calgary, said it's a way to teach the importance of food security through local and sustainable production.

"It sounds cliché, but people are seeking to go back to the land and to see where the tomato you're buying in the grocery store, how it starts, what that seedling looks like," she said. "But also what's great about Grow Calgary is you're bringing people together again."

It's the first large initiative by the group since moving from its northwest Calgary location to a new donated plot of land near Balzac. 

Heather Dumont, a farm manager with Grow Calgary, said what she likes most about volunteering at the farm is getting out and socializing with people. 

"During COVID times, you're not really doing a lot of socializing," Dumont said. "So it's kind of nice to have a bit of community as well."

Franca Perri, who is taking the program, hopes to operate her own farm someday. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

While the certificate isn't a post-secondary document, Klinke said it equips volunteers with enough knowledge to potentially operate their own farm one day. 

For Perri, who wants to do just that, this is a great first step. 

"This is what I needed," Perri said. "I needed to get back to the land and get my hands dirty and dig in there and feel it because we don't do that anymore."

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