Ottawa·City Farmers

Take a tour of 3 tiny farms where something new is growing

Tucked into Ottawa's east end, there's a small non-profit farm where people of all backgrounds can come together to grow something different. With food security in the spotlight during COVID-19, CBC Ottawa set out to learn more about them for our series called City Farmers.

Watch our interactive video about Just Food Farm

The pandemic has put food security in the spotlight, with burgeoning green thumbs opting to turn over front lawns in favour of so-called pandemic gardens.

Growing local has long been the mission at Ottawa's Just Food Farm — a 60-hectare non-profit in the city's  Greenbelt that provides access to land for those that want to grow things.

But this year, organizers of the Blackburn Hamlet initiative went one step further, planting their own crop for the first time. Their harvest of sweet and regular potatoes — three-quarters of a tonne so far — will be donated to the Ottawa Food Bank to boost its pantry over the winter.

"Food production has been a challenge [this year], particularly vegetable production in Ontario," explained associate director Phil Mount, who also helped plant and harvest the potato crop alongside 40 volunteers.

Because of this growing interest in local food, Just Food is expanding its allotment gardens, called the commons, from 20 families this summer to an anticipated 60 next year.

It also runs an ongoing program for people with little experience farming, giving them access to a small plot of land and tools.

CBC Ottawa went to meet some of them for a series we're calling City Farmers.

Meet the City Farmers

Sun Shan and Li Bo say despite being new to farming, they think their "diversity salad" will win over taste buds in this city, bringing together flavours and techniques they know from China to crops that grow here.

The first time Ron St. Louis held a buzzing frame of bees, he fell in love with the tiny pollinators. Now, his passion is not just making honey, but teaching others how to keep healthy bees. He says interest is growing as people look for new hobbies during the pandemic.

Kheela Naw came to Canada as a refugee with her three children and elderly parents. They were farmers back home in Myanmar, and Naw wants to pass on those traditions to the next generation. The pandemic gave the family time together on the farm.

How to use this video

CBC Ottawa created this interactive video to allow you to visit these tiny farms without leaving home. Click on a title in each box to meet one of the farmers. 

To navigate back to the home screen, use the controls at the bottom of the video. The small circle to the left of the pause button will take you back to the main menu.