Greenhouse Outreach Project
Food Producers Forum has partnered with six rural sites across our province to help three local communities and three small family farms plan and design an earth sheltered greenhouse for production of healthy food.
The Greenhouse Outreach Project is the latest phase in five years of collaboration with Memorial University, with support from Perfectly Perennial Herbs and Seeds, a local heritage seed company.
The sites selected for this phase were chosen based on evaluation of expressions of interest received from twenty-six communities across our province. The selected project sites are:
- Codroy Valley Community Service Garden
- Gros Morne Farm and Market in Norris Point
- King’s Point Community Garden
- Carbonear Food Bank
- Knotty Pine Farm and Apiary in Port Blandford
- Mary’s Harbour Community Garden in Labrador
We are working collaboratively with each community to help them develop a unique greenhouse design tuned to local needs and growing conditions. We have turned to government and corporate funders to seek funding for the construction and utilization of greenhouses at these sites to expand provincial food security through local production and distribution.
In each case, we have travelled to the site, and in November, 2021 we brought seven of our community partners into St. John’s for collaborative team meetings. At that time we were able to visit the greenhouse under construction at the O’Brien Farm, and David Goodyear’s four season greenhouse in Flatrock.
This project could not have happened without the involvement and support of our partners, including Memorial University’s Office of Public Engagement, the federal Investment Readiness Program, the O’Brien Farm Foundation, the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Perfectly Perennial Herbs & Seeds, Food First NL and dozens of suppliers, supporters and volunteers who have generously provided energy, advice and hands-on support.
The earth sheltered passive solar structure currently under construction at the O’Brien Farm in St. John’s is the result of a five-year collaboration between several departments of Memorial University (Engineering and Applied Sciences, MUN Botanical Garden, School of Business), the O’Brien Farm Foundation and local non-profit groups including a local heritage seed company, Perfectly Perennial Herbs & Seeds.
In Phase One of this project, three undergraduate engineering students at MUN helped design and evaluate a south-facing earth-insulated grow space with a concrete back wall, insulated end walls, insulated rear roof and transparent polycarbonate front roof that could maintain 10 degrees Celsius year-round for less than $400 per year in electrical heat. With this design in hand we had a structure that could be a tool with multiple social benefits while supporting local food production to address food security in our province.
In Phase Two, we gathered twenty-one local stakeholders involved in food production, food education and distribution, to critically evaluate our design and its application in local communities. During ten hours of meetings we explored structural design, the team needed to build and run the greenhouse, operating inputs and costs, the products to be grown and produced and how to create positive community support. These meetings were remarkable for their high level of collaboration; in ten hours the consulting group produced 270 recommendations for greenhouse operation and design and also took a critical look at provincial and municipal policies affecting community food production. (Copies of this report are available here.)
Through a new partnership with the O’Brien Farm Foundation we are currently building our demonstration version of the Earth Sheltered Greenhouse at the O’Brien Farm in St. John’s, where it will be part of a training centre for sustainable small-scale agriculture. Thanks to additional funding from the federal government, this structure will have solar panels for net metering of power, a built-in rainwater irrigation system, power for lights and heat and a complete digital monitoring and control system, making the structure suitable for research into growing conditions. We plan to have the building complete and operational by mid-June.
We are now reaching out across the province to support six groups in rural communities to design and prepare to build their own year-round grow space. Our general goal is to inspire local community production and distribution of healthy food.