Thursday, 9 August 2018

Posted by Prairie Urban 10:32 No comments

Our market is open Thursday, 5 pm - 7 pm. Come visit and purchase fresh-picked veggies and herbs. On August 9, we have leeks, onions, beets, potatoes, beans, peas, kale, herbs. A different selection will be available each week depending on the growing season.

Please bring your own bags to fill and enjoy. You can also wander through the farm and check out how everything is growing.

As we are non-profit, all proceeds go towards farm operations and outreach activities.

Directions to the farm (Google Maps):

We are located on the University of Alberta's South Campus.

By car: From the university area head south on 114th St, which turns into 113th St, then turn right (west) onto 60th Ave. This street ends at a T intersection. Turn left at the T, and you will see us on your right, about 200 meters from the intersection.

From the LRT: Get off at South Campus Station, head east on foot past the Saville Centre until you reach the road, then turn left. You will walk approximately 2 blocks until you see the dairy barn, and our farm in front of it, on your right.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Posted by Prairie Urban in , , | 11:40 No comments

Green & Gold Community Garden (our neighbour across the road) is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year and there are a number of special public events scheduled for the last weekend in July. Jeanne Mwiliriza, founder and programme coordinator of Tubahumurize, will be in Edmonton for these events. Everyone is welcome.

Friday, July 27, 2018
Presentation by Jeanne Mwiliriza, Tubahumurize Association
Helping Women in Rwanda to Rebuild Their Lives
7pm at St. Andrews United Church, 9915 148 Street

Saturday, July 28, 2018
Garden market, garden & orchard tours
Visit with Jeanne Mwiliriza and other special guests
11am - 1pm at the Garden

For more information, please check their website Green & Gold Community Garden.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Posted by Prairie Urban in , , | 11:04 No comments

Today Prairie Urban Farm hosted over 20 University of Alberta Alumni volunteers who helped us plant seeds, turn compost, and maintain our fruit trees. Big thanks to Alberta Alumni Relations, and to volunteers everywhere!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Posted by Prairie Urban 09:04 1 comment

Volunteer gardening sessions are Saturdays 1-5 pm & Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:30-8:30 pm.

(directions to the farm)

We have lots of soil prep and early seeding to do, so come on out, bring a friend and join us under the sun! No need to register in advance, but don't forget sunscreen and a hat.

Check our Twitter or Facebook page for updates or weather-related cancellations.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Posted by Prairie Urban in , , , , | 15:55 1 comment
Jr High students from the Argyll Centre dug up potatoes to donate to the Youth Empowerment and Support Services.
"It takes a village to raise a child" is an African proverb which means that it's easier to bring up a healthy and well-supported child if you have the effort and care of your entire community.

The same philosophy rings true when it comes to feeding our children, our families, and each and every person within our community.

Prairie Urban Farm's volunteers range from children who aren't quite old enough to articulate the joys of gardening to older folks who have been working the soil for generations. That inter-generational diversity creates the community of sharing, teaching, and learning that is so core to what we're trying to accomplish at the farm.

Volunteer Iris helps visiting Grade 4 students to taste the kale.
Our volunteers are families and children, couples of all ages, university students, youth groups, elementary school classes,  and high school classes coming from all parts of the city. Since May these volunteers have been seeding, transplanting, watering, pruning, digging, weighing and harvesting.

Averaging the volunteers at our sessions over the 24 weeks we've been operating since the beginning of this season, we've collectively sent over 500 bags of farm fresh produce to volunteer homes around Edmonton.

Volunteers harvested, weighed, washed, and packaged produce for sale at one of our summer markets.
In addition to going home with our volunteers, we spend time caring for Prairie Urban Farm in order to produce food for all Edmonton citizens. So far we've donated over 550 lbs of fresh vegetables to the Edmonton Food Bank, Campus Food Bank, Youth Empowerment & Support Services, The Neighbour Centre, and Meals on Wheels.

When we pack up a box of harvested produce for one of these community organizations, the vegetables have a history.

Beets, potatoes, greens, herbs, tomatoes, and leeks donated to Meals on Wheels in time for Thanksgiving.
In July our community partner volunteers from The Neighbour Centre and our youth volunteers from E4C's Art Start planted out new lettuce, arugula, and beet plots. In August our youth volunteers from Edmonton's Inner City High School planted more late-season lettuce. The lettuce and beets donated to Meals on Wheels this Thanksgiving was harvested from those plots thanks to those volunteers in the summer.

Meals on Wheels volunteers prepare fresh and frozen meals in their in-house production centre under the guidance of Red Seal Chef Robin Cheverie.
Edmonton's Meals on Wheels uses this donated fresh produce to prepare fresh and frozen meals that are delivered to homes across the city. The average age of their members is 84 years old and many of their clientele have mobility challenges or other barriers that keep them from preparing meals themselves. By providing Meals on Wheels with fresh produce donations, they're able to keep their meals varied, nutritious, and low-cost for our Edmonton citizens who need their services.

Youth volunteers from E4C's Art Adventures Summer Camp create new lettuce, arugula, and beet plots.
Youth from Edmonton's Inner City High School plant late-season lettuce rows.
This October we had Jr. High students from the Argyll Centre and four different Kindergarten and Pre-school classes join us at Prairie Urban Farm. During their visits they dug up potatoes which were donated to the Youth Empowerment & Support Services and The Neighbour Centre. The Jr. High class learned, as they were searching the soil for more spuds, that their efforts would help provide a filling Thanksgiving meal for youth their age living at YESS. Some of the neighbours at The Neighbour Centre were volunteers who helped at the farm throughout the summer, now able to enjoy some late-season fruits of their labour thanks to the youth volunteers digging efforts.

Neighbours and volunteers at The Neighbour Centre prepare a nutritious meal at their weekly Dinnerclub.
Each time someone at the farm plants a row of greens, pushes a garlic seed into the ground, or harvests a box of corn they have become entwined into the food stories of countless other people in their community. Food transcends all differences and it is a bridge that has allowed us to partner with and get to know youth, individuals, families and  groups across the city, our village, who are working to make sure we all have enough to eat.

A salad party at Prairie Urban Farm during E4C's Art Adventures youth summer camp. Mmmm eating veggies has never looked so good!
Our community partners mentioned in this article:
The Neighbour Centre is a drop-in resource centre for adults living in poverty. They're "spreading good through their 'hood". Staff, volunteers, and  'neighbours' (people in the community using their services), came out to volunteer at Prairie Urban Farm every Monday morning from July - October. They harvested produce for their drop-in centre and for their weekly Dinnerclub (where they all get together and cook a meal in a community Church kitchen).

E4C's Art Start has been collaborating with us since 2014 in facilitating art projects at many of our community events. Art Start is a free after-school art program offered in lower-income schools across Edmonton. This year we hosted two days of the Art Adventures youth summer camp which brought over a dozen youth to the farm to learn about food security and urban agriculture.

Do you have fresh produce to donate?
Bring it to any of the community service groups mentioned in this article! Chefs and volunteers on-site at YESS will create wonderful meals to feed and nourish at-risk youth living across the city. Food Banks will keep fresh produce in their coolers until they can include it in hampers going home with people.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Posted by Prairie Urban in , , | 21:26 1 comment
Volunteers harvested over 30 lbs of beets, cabbage, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, and zucchini for the Edmonton Food Bank on August 11th, 2015.
We produce a lot of food at Prairie Urban Farm. Most of our food goes home with our volunteers - the people who work so hard to make our project succeed. Core to our philosophies and goals at Prairie Urban Farm is to increase food security: access to nutritious, sufficient, and safe food for all. This includes creating an abundance of fruits and vegetables for those people in our community that are struggling to access nutritious, fresh food.

Volunteers from The Neighbour Centre showing off their harvest of greens, beets, and herbs for their weekly Dinnerclub program.

This year Food Banks across Alberta have been struggling to keep up with demand as the numbers of people across the province needing food hampers has surged. Many people are blaming the recent economic downturn. Our provinces heavily oil-dependent economy tends to go through ups and downs which means that there will be many jobs created all at once, causing new families and young people to re-locate here, followed by many job losses all at once, causing a lot of financial strain to those same people. The increases are consistent across the province:

  • The Wood Buffalo Food Bank Association in Fort McMurray served about 390 people/month in 2014 which has now increased to 690 people/month
  • The Edmonton Food Bank's monthly numbers rose from 14,000 to 17,000
  • The University of Lethbridge has seen a 24% increase in the students served hampers this year
Volunteers at Edmonton's Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) posing with donated Prairie Urban Farm produce in the fall of 2014

How can Prairie Urban Farm help?
This week volunteers harvested over 30 lbs of salad and stirfry greens (lettuce, chard, kale, mustard), zucchini, cucumber, beets, peas, and cabbage. These raw vegetables were taken to the Edmonton Food Bank warehouse where they will be stored in their coolers until used for hamper production. This will help provide our most food insecure community members with access to more nutritious food on their next trip to our local Food Bank.

Volunteers harvesting greens and veggies for the Edmonton Food Bank.
How can you help?
You can learn more about the Edmonton Food Banks procedure on food donations on their website. If you're donating non-perishable items you can drop them off at City of Edmonton Fire Stations or major grocery stores. Here are some of their most needed non-perishables:
  • beans
  • canned fruit or veg
  • peanut butter
  • mac and cheese dinners
  • pasta and pasta sauce
  • cereal and oatmeal
  • juice boxes and granola bars and other school snacks

The Edmonton Food Bank Warehouse in downtown Edmonton where we dropped off our 30 lbs of fresh produce.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Posted by Prairie Urban in , , , | 15:04 3 comments
Michelle Peters-Jones from the Tiffin Box teaching us how to make salsa in September 2014 at our canning workshop.

Where we came from and how we grew up, our food traditions, our present living situation and current access to foods, our schedules and family members and jobs - each of these things contribute to our unique food journeys. Perhaps you grew up in a home with fresh garden produce and homemade preserves, but you never learnt yourself. Maybe you've lived your whole life in an urban environment without access to or knowledge of gardening or food production. Maybe you have a huge family, kids to feed, soccer practices to attend, and no time to grow food on your own and no budget to buy what you feel are the most nutritious options.

Our volunteers harvesting tomatoes in September 2014. All of our farm members come from different places in their food journeys. Many haven't ever gardened before and some have gardened most of their lives.

There are ways that we can produce nutritious food no matter where we're at in our food journey. Below I describe three ways to help us feel empowered in our path towards food security.

1. Learn the skills that you want to have
Don't know how to garden but want to learn? There is plenty of opportunity. Join Prairie Urban Farm or one of the other U of A communal gardens on campus and you'll have garden leaders take you through the season from seeding to harvesting, giving you the skills you need to experiment on your own yard if you wish to. Prairie Urban Farm also organizes educational workshops throughout the year relating to food preservation so that our members can learn how to can, pickle, and ferment produce.
Want to scale up your current green thumb? Consider taking the Master Gardener course offered by the Devonian Botanical Gardens or the Organic Master Gardener course offered by the Stony Plain Heritage Agricultural Society.
The City of Edmonton has recently passed a bylaw allowing urban beekeeping. There are plenty of mentors and organizations in the city that can teach you the skills you need to get started.

Johwanna from Mojo Jojo Pickles & Preserves demonstrating how easy it is to preserve and pickle foods at our February seminar. A lot of Edmontonians want to learn how to can and ferment their produce!

2. Use the skills or resources that you do have
Maybe you hate gardening but you love the taste of a garden tomato or carrot. A lot of people who grow those tomatoes or carrots would likely be open to a friendly exchange of goods (usually they have more than they know what to do with!). What skills do you have right now? Are you awesome at making bread or muffins or quilting or wood-working or pie-making? Ask your neighbour who has abundant apples covering their ground if you could use some in exchange for an extra apple pie for them. Ask gardening neighbours if you could trade them freshly baked bread in exchange for some garden produce when they have extra. Maybe your resource is that you have time and willingness to pick up a shovel! That could be huge for a neighbour who doesn't want to or can't do the heavy lifting involved in some of their tasks. Everyone has things they're great at. And if you really feel that you don't, learn some things! Everyone has to start somewhere and there are dozens of teachers in our own communities very willing to mentor each of us. There are also great events that happen during the year such as February 2014's Resilience Festival which had workshops on baking bread, maintaining tools, crafting out of willow branches, and cooking techniques!

Retired professor Nils Peterson helps a group of U of A students build a raised garden bed.

3. Use the space that you do have
If you own your own home and have access to a yard, you're golden! You already have a ton of space that you can use to produce a variety of foods. Are there environmental barriers - is your yard completely shaded? Do you have crappy soil or a ton of weeds? Maybe you live in a condo and only have a windowsill? Each space has its own unique opportunities.

Low-light/Shaded Yards
There are plenty of crops that do quite well in a low-lit environment. Most greens (lettuce, spinach, kale) prefer a growing environment with low-light conditions. Root crops like carrots, beets, and turnips need a certain amount of light over the whole growing season to grow the root that we eat underneath the ground. If you plant these seeds early as soon as your soil thaws you should have a harvest by the fall. If your yard is very shaded and the roots are still small (you should be able to tell by digging a bit of soil away from the tops), leave them in the ground for a few weeks longer before you harvest as they will tolerate the frost that the fall brings. Strawberries, in their natural habitat, grow as a groundcover in forested areas so you may have luck with them in your partially shaded plots. Experiment and try different crops to see what does well in your particular growing environment.

Spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, carrot, beets, turnip would all do well in low-lit conditions.

Crappy Soil/Weeds
Have you ever heard of lasagna gardening? It's also called sheet mulching and it uses some of the abundant, free materials that our urban centres provide. Cover your crappy, weedy soil with a layer of cardboard, making sure the cardboard overlaps (this makes sure the weeds don't push through the cracks of the cardboard). Then cover this with a few inches of compost. Cover the compost with a few inches of mulch (grass clippings, wood chips, dried leaves). You're effectively suppressing the weeds you don't want to grow and producing new organic matter to plant into. Also, it's all free. There's cardboard everywhere (ask grocery stores, check recycling dumpsters behind strip malls). You can pick up free compost from the University of Alberta's South Campus just across from Prairie Urban Farm. The U of A workers leave a big pile of composted cow manure there during the growing season. Collect your own mulch by saving up your grass clippings and dried leaves, or ask your neighbours if you could collect theirs - most people just throw them out unfortunately.

Volunteers sheet mulching at Prairie Urban Farm in the spring of 2014.

You still have a lot of opportunity! Many plants can be quite effectively grown in containers. You do have more limited space with a balcony so your best strategy would be to focus on a couple of crops that would grow well and that you like. If your balcony is shaded, again, leafy greens and root crops would be your best bet. For root crops you'll need a deep container. If your balcony receives a lot of light consider growing tomatoes, peppers, and an herb like basil which are perfectly happy in containers.

No Outdoor Space
Don't worry you can still grow nutritious food without access to an outdoor space. If you have a windowsill that receives enough light you may be able to keep a variety of herbs going throughout the growing season which would definitely scale up your culinary options!  Experiment with different herbs and see which prefer your level of light and make sure to water appropriately (not all herbs like the same amount! Trust me, I've killed many an herb plant this way). You can also sprout seeds in your kitchen which is a fantastic option for a nutrient-dense vegetable to add to salads, sandwiches, and cooking that doesn't even need soil. You can buy seeds such as lentils, beans, alfalfa, grain, broccoli, and radish in bulk so that it's cheaper. Try Apache Seeds, Earths General Store or an online supplier if you find that you want quite a lot. It only takes a glass jar, some sort of strainer, and a few days time to produce extremely nutrient-dense sprouts from a tablespoon of seeds. Seeds themselves are packed with nutrition and when they sprout they keep that nutrition and create even more fibre, protein, and nutrients. This sprouting instructional video will show you just how easy it is.

There are also ways to access outdoor space. I mentioned community gardens above. Sustainable Food Edmonton has a list of all the community gardens around the city. The U of A also has an Adopt-a- Planter program where you can take care of a planter on campus for them and grow your own vegetables!

I hope this gives you a sense of how much opportunity there is for each of us right now where we're at. We don't need to wait for the right soil, the perfect yard, or yard access at all. Learning new skills, sharing skills we have, and connecting with our community is a great start towards food security.

Tim tending to the leeks in summer 2014. Volunteers who come in the spring with no garden knowledge become much more comfortable and confident in gardening tasks as the summer progresses.

And speaking of connecting with our community. Here are a couple of great events happening around Edmonton this month:

Alberta Avenue 2nd Annual Rubber Boots & Bow Ties Garden Party
Where: Alberta Avenue Community Garden
When: Friday May 29
Cost: $10 advance, $20 at the door
What: There will be music, appetizers, artwork for sale, garden games, and a silent auction!

Breakfast and Composting Workshop
Where: Trinity United Church
When: Saturday May 30
Cost: $10
What: You'll get a pancake, sausage, fruit breakfast followed by a City of Edmonton Master Composter facilitated Composting Workshop! You'll even go home with a bag of compost!