One small step for community gardens, one giant leap for Halifax at large.
There are 11 community gardens in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), public spaces in which people can grow their own food, to lower the grocery bill, to satisfy their need for local produce or to put their insatiable green thumbs to work. Thanks to a progressive move by municipal council, these soil enthusiasts can now sell their hard earned fruits and veggies to the public.
Moneys earned from these sales are not pocketed by the growers, however. According to the new municipal law, all earnings must be used for the benefit of the municipality or the community gardens themselves.
"This is a major change for the city," said David Foster, program coordinator with Halifax Diverse, an initiative aiming to connect the public with urban nature. "It adds legitimacy to urban orchards and gardens...and makes them the urban equivalent to a real farm."
Growers can reinvest their earnings into their garden. Community gardens can also operate to benefit local food initiatives such as food banks, producing floral or landscaping displays within the municipality, garden demonstrations, instructional programs or the distribution of garden products to local retailers.
Complete details of the municipality's decision can be found here.
Common Roots Urban Farms, located in the Halifax Common, is a compelling model for what's now possible in the HRM. Common Roots is in its third year of operation, and because it's located on provincial rather than municipal land, its gardeners have always been allowed to sell their produce. This is a vital aspect of their success.
"For our project, just having the ability to do some cost recovery is really helpful and necessary," said Jayme Melrose, head of Common Roots. "I think when there's an entrepreneurial aspect to things, there can be a lot more energy."
She said Common Roots has a community garden with 157 rented plots, surrounding a market garden from which they sell produce. In addition, they donate produce to the Parker Street Food Bank - 185 pound of food have been delivered this year alone.
"Our project is considered a great success and a really interesting model," said Melrose. "We're able to create employment and sell healthy, fresh, organic, affordable food, grown by the community for the community. It's something that has been very well received...so it's great that it's legal now [on municipal land]."
Melrose said other community gardening and orchard programs have expressed interest in the Common Roots model...and now they can pursue it in full force. Melrose said Common Roots was a strong advocate of the change made by the HRM.
So now, with a minor change to municipal law, community gardens have the potential to change their city for the better...and for the greener.