Page 1




Is Halifax reaching its potential to produce food in the city?

Who is transforming the way we think about food in Halifax?

Where is food growing in your neighbourhood? Check out our map!


Agri-culturinG the city

Episode III unearths a food movement in Canadian cities "Connecting planning to people and people to planning"

In this issue we explore the local food movement, its impacts, challenges, and future opportunities. In working on this issue of SEEK and the Cities Alive Podcast episode “Agri-Culturing the City”, it is clear that the local food movement is picking up steam. All over Canada communities are reconsidering how to approach food production and distribution within dense urban environments. Our Agri-Culturing the City episode profiles community change makers, municipal planners, academics and entrepreneurs who are demonstrating the potential for urban agriculture to stimulate economic and social innovation. Food production in cities is becoming serious business.

Different forms of urban agriculture including urban farms, small plot intensive farming, and commercial operations throughout Canada are demonstrating the incredible potential for urban food production. Municipalities are also recognizing the need for leadership from an institutional and governance perspective. Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Guelph, Toronto and others are developing food strategies, food policies and devoting considerable space to the topic within their municipal plans. In some cases municipalities already support many existing local food initiatives, and in other cases, cities are removing barriers to support food production

and distribution initiatives. The projects profiled in this issue highlight the unique ways in which food security is being approached in Halifax. They also reveal some of the difficulties faced by existing and aspiring local urban agriculture initiatives. The map on the adjacent page illustrates the growing number of gardens, farms, and food hubs; these demonstrate how urban agriculture is integrated in our neighbourhoods. We identify several barriers facing the development of local food systems as well as opportunities to garner support from policy-makers to improve urban agriculture infrastructure, programs, and resources in Halifax.

COMMON ROOTS URBAN FARM In 2012, Common Roots sprouted on the 3.5-acre grounds of the former Queen Elizabeth High School. Community engagement sessions led by the Cities & Environment Unit and Partners for Care helped inform the direction of this pilot project. Managed by Partners for Care, the farm is an interim use for what could have been a vacant site. Jayme Melrose, Project Coordinator for the farm, feels that there is a growing sense of long-term commitment for this temporary initiative within Capital Health. Having local food growing on health care premises sends a powerful message about what health really means. According to Jayme, Common Roots is a unique project, “gifted by a lack of barriers because we are on Provincial land. If we tried to do this on Municipal property it would be illegal.” Provincial property allows the Farm to take part in social enterprise whereas current municipal property by-laws do not permit the sale of goods. The construction of sheds and ISSUE 008 | SUMMER 2014

other structures does not have to go through a rigorous permitting process - a barrier that many other urban agricultural initiatives face. Jumping through the hoops of municipal approvals can be time consuming and daunting. The farm consists of three main areas: the market garden; community plots; and edible landscaping areas. Currently 157 community plots are available with 300 registered plotters utilizing the space. This summer the Farm introduced a market stand at its Robie Street entrance. This will add to the already impressive production plan which helps support the Parker Street Food Bank through its CSA program and sells to some local restaurants. Jayme is a passionate urban farmer who believes “there is great economic potential for these types of small enterprises.” Unlike community gardening, it is important to acknowledge that urban farming helps to build our local economy and support our neighbourhoods.

What is Urban Agriculture? Urban agriculture is a broad term used to describe a system of local food from production, processing and distribution, to consumption and disposal. Here is the working terminology for the types of urban agriculture you are likely to see in Halifax:

Home or ‘kitchen’ gardens are

grown on private residential property for use by single-family and multifamily dwellings.

Community gardens are small-

scale sites with plots for individuals and families in a neighbourhood to grow food, primarily for personal consumption.

Urban farms are large-scale

growing sites where private companies or non-profit organizations grow food for mass production - these often include a commercial component.

DARTMOUTH FOOD CENTRE The first of its kind in Atlantic

Canada, the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre (DNCFC) will work to bring Dartmouth North residents together by cooking up a passion for growing and preparing healthy food. The project’s primary goals are to: Improve low-income Canadians’ and recent immigrants’ access to and understanding of healthy food and wellbeing; Provide a space for social engagement. The centre will be a home away from home – a place for people to meet their neighbours and build social networks. An exciting partnership between Community Food Centres Canada

(CFCC) and the Dartmouth Family Centre (DFC) has resulted in the creation of the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre. This is one of 15 such centres planned to open in cities across Canada by 2017. These centres seek to address food insecurity by surpassing what food banks and emergency food services are typically able to accomplish: they help build knowledge, confidence, and skills. The Dartmouth Family Centre’s mandate is to provide support for parents with infants and children up to six years old, as well as prenatal support. CFCC tailors its programs to its local partners, so existing projects like the Community Cupboard for young families will be significantly enhanced by the new space.

The proposed ‘learning gardens’ at the DNCFC will accommodate many different skill levels and interest groups. People can stop by to weed, learn how to harvest and plant, or work indoors and focus on building skills in food preparation. As the project moves ahead, the local community will provide valuable feedback on the types of programs and services that they would like to see in Dartmouth North. This holistic set of programs and activities positions the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre to create a space for people to feel a sense of belonging, build social support networks, and of course, celebrate eating. Good food is just the beginning.

Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services ISIS is a community organization that offers programs and services to welcome immigrants to Nova Scotia. ISIS Community Gardens allow newcomers and more established residents in the Clayton Park area to work together to grow vegetables in small community plots. In May 2012 the first ISIS Community Garden, Glen Garden, was established. Glen Garden is a community-building project maintained by Clayton Park and Fairview community members, new immigrants to the area, and ISIS staff. As of August 2013, 15 garden beds were available with 49 families utilizing the plots. The garden fee is kept very low and accessible, at only $2 per family. Anyone living in the community is welcome to grow organic fruits and

vegetables but most importantly to ISIS, all plots are shared with a newcomer family. Integration between newcomers and long-time residents of Clayton Park is one of the primary goals of this project. Cultural and language barriers present a challenge to the project but it is ISIS’ hope that people (especially isolated seniors), can build relationships working side by side in the gardens. Pairing newcomers who are often seasoned farmers with Canadian residents in the area wanting to grow their own food presents an excellent opportunity to share gardening and language skills.

challenge for ISIS is finding suitable public land in the Clayton Park area with access to water. Despite these constraints, the project has been well received and was even awarded a $5,000 cheque from the RBC Foundation in January, 2014. The success of Glen Garden has led to the construction of two additional gardens. In fact, ISIS can barely keep up with the demand for garden plots!

"Growing food is often an intrinsic part of the newcomers’ identities - the opportunity to reconnect with this has proved invaluable."

Recent participants have acknowledged having to adjust to the Canadian growing season and the transition from farming vast fields to small vegetable gardens. Another ISSUE 008 | SUMMER 2014


Municipal legislation, land use planning, and local infrastructure should promote, not impede, local food production. Let's take a look at some of the challenges of expanding urban agriculture in Halifax. To begin with, efforts to support local food production in Halifax are currently piecemeal. The Regional Municipal Planning Strategy lacks policy statements outlining specific targets for urban agriculture. Developing a comprehensive food plan or strategy would direct policy - connecting stakeholders to resources and coordinating existing grassroots efforts (see Halifax Alliance for Food Policy and CLASP).

land use


Urban agriculture is not a permissible land use in Halifax. When a land use by-law does not enable a specific use, that use is automatically conditionally prohibited.

Conditional & Temporary Use

Development agreements requesting agricultural uses can be conditionally approved by council but this solution is only temporary.

Urban Livestock


Urban hens are not explicitly allowed or disallowed on the peninsula, creating uncertainty for potential owners. Urban chickens are prohibited in Dartmouth.


Other than recreational community garden programs with long waitlists, the Municipality lacks programming tailored specifically to food production initiatives.


Many community gardening activities are self-funded. Material costs can be a burden to groups working to maintain community gardens and market gardening is not readily supported.

This map locates existing urban agric

(see halifaxgardennet

HALI-FACTS Founded in 1750, Halifax's Historic Farmers’ Market is the oldest in North America and is still in operation today.

In Halifax almost 20% of the population is considered food insecure; the highest rate for metropolitan centers throughout Canada.

12 communitysupported agriculture farms (CSA) currently deliver from rural farms to Halifax!


By amending planning policy, land use zoning and related municipal programming, local food production can become a regular sight in our urban landscape. The examples below provide some guidance for how Halifax can increase support for local urban agricultural initiatives. The Mayor’s "Conversation on Healthy and Liveable Community� staff report recommends that Council formally support the work of the Halifax Food Policy Alliance. The report also calls for the development and implementation of an urban orchard pilot project! The Department of Planning is increasingly looking for ways to include community food security in planning strategies. These examples and the opportunities below show that the municipality is moving in a positive direction.


Conditional & Temporary Use

Commerce and vending by-laws can be amended to enable the sale of fresh produce as a home occupation from mobile food trucks and pop-up markets to other innovative tactical urbanism strategies.

land use

The next phase of the Centre Plan will consider urban agriculture and other food security initiatives within low-density residential areas. Urban agricultural activities pursued on provincial land are not limited by the zoning by-laws that restrict such uses on public municipal property.

Urban Livestock

To date, neither animal control nor land use by-laws in the regional centre mention urban chickens. Silence on this issue in legislation enables residents to pursue the activity for the time being.


Halifax provides and supports the Community Garden Recreational Program which enables small scale farming and gardening (no commercial use) on public lands. The application process is straightforward and accessible.

culture projects in the Halifax Region for details)

On average, an item in the National Nutritious Food Basket travels 3,976 km from its origin to Halifax.

Some areas in Halifax receive support from councillors (e.g. District 8) and from participatory budgeting processes. Councillors could even set up permanent budgets for urban agriculture.


A partnership with Capital Health through Coalitions Linking Action and Science to Prevention (CLASP) brings health considerations into land use planning processes. One of their projects in Halifax is centered around community food security.



ISSUE 008 | SUMMER 2014

The Halifax Food Policy Alliance After several community meetings in the spring of 2013, representatives from the Ecology Action Centre, Public Health - Capital District Health (through CLASP), and the Halifax Planning Department joined forces to lead the work of the Halifax Food Policy Alliance (formerly the HRM Food Strategy Group). The group represents organizations and individuals that are concerned about food and agriculture issues across the region, and eager to see change. Together they aim to create a Food Strategy for the Halifax Region, a

road map to help city governments integrate the full spectrum of food systems issues within a single policy framework. To date their work has included: Completing a Halifax-wide food assessment - a picture of the current state of food security in Halifax; Development of a (draft) Food Charter- a vision for community food security across the region; Planning the development of a Halifax Food Strategy

cities alive: Agri-culturing the city The third episode of the Cities Alive podcast, “Agri-culturing the City”, tracks the current shift in how and why cities approach local food production. We speak with farmers, academics, entrepreneurs and community-builders to get an idea of just how much food matters. We look at different models of urban agriculture and the various ways in which cities in Canada and around the world are transforming underutilized spaces. In Cuba, economic isolation and the threat of food shortages in the 1990’s prompted a rapid and governmentsubsidized creation of a countrywide urban farming strategy to tackle food security. Montréal-based Lufa Farms is a pioneer in rooftop urban agriculture.

Through innovation, Lufa shows how urban farming can help address unsustainable food systems in an economically viable way. Municipal support for urban orchards in Victoria shows how a collective effort in edible landscaping made fruits and nuts free for the picking. The stories shared through Cities Alive have not all been positive. Lake City Farms is an example of how policy can hinder local efforts to supply healthy and affordable food to the community. These narratives illustrate how community- based projects can inspire and inform policy makers and planners and foster a culture of collaboration in the pursuit of a sustainable local food economy.

Tune in to Episode III of Cities Alive on Itunes to hear more about these stories and others, as we recount different Canadian communities’ adventures in urban agriculture:

In Canada, 64 food policy initiatives are underway in different jurisdictions, however, this excludes Nova Scotia. Halifax Food Policy Alliance is hoping to change that! To learn more about their work, check out the Halifax Food Policy Alliance Page on Facebook, or contact Aimee Carson: halifaxfoodpolicyalliance

get involved ! Support Local

You can help support the local food movement by buying your produce and goods at local farmers’ markets! The Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia cooperative helps connect producers to consumers:

Get Growing

To join a project or start your own, connect with other urban gardeners and farmers through the Halifax Garden Network:


Write to your local elected politicians asking for improved urban agriculture infrastructure. Join The Food Action Committee (FAC) of the Ecology Action Centre:

Get In Touch

The PDC is dedicated to 3 simple principles:

t 902.494.8494 e a 5257 Morris St, Halifax NS

1 Awareness. Increase visibility of projects and plans in Halifax 2 Collaboration. Create a forum for public discussion and fair debate 3 Innovation. Advocate for high quality public infrastructure