A local organization is looking to bolster the community’s food security by setting up a year-round farm within Cranbrook.
“This food security will help out those facing food insecurity, but also the general population as well,” said Sophie Larson with the Urban Farm Steering Committee. “Part of the way this farm will be sustainable is that this food will also be available to those who can afford to pay it and that will help with our operational costs.”
The project is still in the early stages, but the Community Connections Society of Southeast BC has secured funding to build the necessary infrastructure for the first phase of the project.
That said, they still have to decide on a location before the first seeds can be sown.
Once built, the farm is intended to grow food year-round, using an indoor hydroponics system.
“The majority of our food is not created here and then transported here, so there are many different impediments that can affect the flow of that food,” explained Larson. “The more food we can produce here, the more secure we will be.”
Larson said the unit they are looking to build will be able to grow about 5,500 pounds of food annually – equivalent to about 526 heads of lettuce each week.
They will likely focus on growing specific kinds of food at the start before expanding with more variety.
“The unit had been previously tested with many different types of greens. With the price of lettuce being what it is, it might be a great one to start with. It’s also been tested with indigenous foods,” said Larson.
Additionally, the facility is planned to help divert food waste by converting it to compost.
This will either be used by the urban farm or sold to gardeners as an additional revenue stream.
The need for this project is highlighted by an increase in Cranbrook residents relying on food-providing services.
“About 800 new clients have registered with the Cranbrook Food Bank in the last year alone. 30 per cent of the food bank’s clients are under the age of 17,” explained Seamus Damstrom, Interior Health representative on the Urban Farm Steering Committee. “They have about 2,240 active clients that are eligible for food every 14 days. This is about 11 per cent of the population of Cranbrook.”
Damstrom noted that Cranbrook food recovery has diverted 220,000 pounds of food from the landfill, providing that to 18 different local programs and schools.
On top of that, the Salvation Army has seen an increase in the number of school lunches they provide, rising by 170 in October, resulting in about 2,500 school lunches being provided in November.
Mayor Wayne Price said he is in favour of this project.
“There was a time that – years and years ago – we relied on local produce production and it was supported locally. I really believe we’re going back to that,” said Price. “It’s something we need to really pay attention to and focus on regionally.”