Seeds of helpful idea sprouting in City Farms project for Edmonton’s Food Bank

Quick, when you think about what the City of Edmonton produces, what comes to mind?

Things, maybe, like roads, bridges, sidewalks and sewers? Sure. Or, maybe, recreation opportunities and parks, or even safety and security and health? Yes.

To that list of good things you can now add potatoes, beets, corn, carrots, onions and pumpkins.

Because this year, for the first time, green-thumbed City workers have transformed a five-hectare piece of land at the Old Man Creek Nursery into a garden for Edmonton’s Food Bank.

It’s called City Farms.

“Three months ago, I witnessed a plot of grass, alongside mosquitoes,” said Austin McDowell, a City of Edmonton Gardener.

“Today I showed up to work to see healthy stalks, new leaves and emergence—alongside mosquitoes,” said McDowell. “It’s beautiful.”

Your basic onions at City Farms

Going to seed

City Farms grew from a challenge from City Council to provide more gardening space and fresh food to Edmontonians during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Infrastructure Operations team in the Parks and Road Services branch dug in. They delivered the new pop-up garden program. And they got growing on the City Farms garden at the 32-hectare nursery in northeast Edmonton, which also produces the trees, shrubs and plants used in City parks and green spaces. 

The Food Bank requested the types of veggies to be grown.

Crews at the nursery brought the idea down to earth, planting approximately 1000 pounds of potato starters, 20 pounds of beet seeds, 20 pounds of corn seeds, six pounds of carrot seeds, 30 pounds of onion tubes and four pounds of pumpkin seeds. 

“We are looking forward to the support from the City during the fall harvest,” said Marjorie Bencz, Executive Director of Edmonton’s Food Bank.

“Home-grown, garden fresh fruits and vegetables are a wonderful treat for you and those in need,” said Bencz. “We value the variety and nutrition of our food hampers, which include both non-perishable as well as fresh foods like breads, pastries, eggs, fruits and vegetables.” 

Crews expect to harvest 20 tonnes of vegetables for the Food Bank come fall. 

Your basic beets

Local food

The team sourced the seeds and existing equipment, tilled the field then seeded the site for the Food Bank garden, protecting their work by weeding along the way. 🌿

McDowell said the pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of a safe and healthy food supply.

“Current struggles stress the importance of the farm-to-table growing,” McDowell said. “Not only are the yields going to a good cause, but the project showcases the applicability of urban agriculture and how our department can pivot in a time of need.”

 City Farms crews preparing soil for planting

Backyards in bloom for Food Bank, too

The idea of growing food for Edmonton’s Food Bank can easily be transplanted to the backyards of the city, said Bencz.

“Nurture and grow your garden and earmark a row or surplus to the Food Bank,” said Bencz. “It’s a simple and an easy way to donate.”

Edmonton’s Food Bank distributes food to more than 250 agencies, churches, schools and food depots, providing nearly 500,000 meals and snacks each month. The service has been needed even more during the COVID pandemic.

City Farms, Edmonton

Producing produce

As the City farms at City Farms, we’ll follow the story and get you a harvest and delivery update.

Editor’s note: This week is #YEGCares week at the City of Edmonton and here on theTransforming Edmonton blog. Check back. More stories of caring coming. ❤️