Halifax urban farm has until spring to put down new roots

New Canadians, especially those who come from farming backgrounds, are drawn to the opportunities to grow their own culturally appealing food, says Jayme Melrose of Common Roots Urban Farm.

Common Roots Urban Farm eyes Fairview-Clayton Park area

Common Roots Urban Farm has gotten an extension of its moving date, which is now April 2019. The organization is still looking for a suitable site. (CBC)

Common Roots Urban Farm in Halifax has until the spring to find a new location and the search for new digs has the operators eyeing the Fairview-Clayton Park area.

Jayme Melrose, a member of the farm's advisory committee, said the provincial government has granted the farm an extension until April to find "the perfect site."

"We're really grateful," said Melrose.

The farm, located at the corner of Robie Street and Bell Road, had been told it would have to leave the site by the end of November to make way for an expansion of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

Last April, about 250 farm supporters took part in a public engagement session that produced a number of wishes for the new location: accessible, sunny and hopefully still on the peninsula.

Melrose said a search for suitable land on the peninsula hasn't been successful and the operators are now considering property further afield.

"A lot of our users are in Fairview-Clayton Park. I would say a solid 25 per cent."

The annual pumpkin smash at Common Roots Urban Farm's Harvest Hootenanny will be held Nov. 3. (Sylvie Theriault)

Users are a mixture of young families, students, retirees and new Canadians, particularly those who come from a farming background and are looking for culturally appealing food, she said.

However, the farm has also served as a welcoming site for both hospital staff and patients at the adjoining Halifax Infirmary, Abbey Lane and Veterans Memorial facilities.

"There were a number of patient groups that used the farm in a therapeutic way that would do programming in the community plots there ... therapeutic, but in a less clinical way," Melrose said.

"There was a number of staff groups that used the community garden plots on their lunch break, I supposed as a stress-relieving, team-building thing to do. It will be interesting to see how our programming changes in the new location. I don't know of any site that is close to a hospital where we could continue to do that kind of work or provide that kind of service."

The organization has two farms. The other is located at the Nova Scotia Hospital site in Dartmouth.

New partners and hope for approval of $100K grant

The cost of the move will be about $60,000.

Common Roots is partnering with MetroWorks, a community economic development group, and PBJ Design, a non-profit project management organization, to navigate the move and expand the therapeutic gardening and employment programs put on by the farm.

"We are also feeling really confident about a $100,000 grant application we've submitted to the provincial government for programming," Melrose said.

There's a voluntary transition team in place, she said, but lots of volunteers will be needed in the days to come. People interested can contact the farm. There is also a 30-day crowdfunding site for financial contributions.

The farm is hosting two fundraising events soon — a plant sale on Saturday and the Harvest Hootenanny Pumpkin Smash and silent auction on Nov. 3. 

About the Author

Susan Bradley

Reporter

Susan Bradley is a journalist in Halifax.