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Yup, that grows here: New column focuses on local agriculture

Grow Up Here runs once a month
Grow Up Here is a new column on local agriculture. File photo.

By: Fionna Tough

Northern Ontario’s agricultural identity has been one of mystery to many people residing in the region and beyond. 

“We can grow that up here?” is a familiar query that has been posed to me when working at various farmers’ market booths throughout North Bay and Sudbury. 

Luckily, farmers and organizations in the area are working hard to dispel the myth that our growing season is too short to accomplish anything significant when it comes to producing food. 

In 2014, I moved back to Sudbury with the sole intent of farming, after having completed an internship at Fieldgood Farms in Cache Bay, as part of my co-op placement for the Sustainable Agricultural Program at Fleming College. 

To date, I have worked on six small-scale ecological farms across Ontario, three of which are within an hour’s drive of Sudbury. This past summer, I ran my own mixed vegetable market garden on rented land in Hanmer.

Watermelons, cantaloupes, squash and ground cherries are my favourite crops to grow, even though they all can be a challenge with the ever-changing climate and our first and last frost dates. 

It has been an exciting few years to be back home in Sudbury as I have been witness to an increasing number of organizations and businesses forming initiatives with food production and community food access as their focal points.

With new urban agriculture projects such as the Flour Mill Community Farm and Sudbury Shared Harvest’s Food Forest popping up across the city in 2017, our community will have the opportunity to engage with food in a novel, hands-on capacity. 

Innovative businesses within the city’s reach are set to amp up food production this year using aquaponics and aeroponics, which will see fresh veggies growing indoors throughout all four seasons. 

College Boreal’s new Agricultural Techniques Diploma program launched this past fall, keeping pace with the renewed interest of young people exploring farming as a career.  The Sudbury Community Garden network is ever-expanding, with 20-plus community gardens growing in the area. 

Fruit For All will be continuing its mission to harvest and rescue fruit grown in neighbourhood yards that might otherwise be left to decompose on our lawns and sidewalks. 
Shkagamik-Kwe Health Center continues to offer programming that shares knowledge and expertise about the plant-medicines that exist all around us, and about respectful hunting methods that honour all of the beings involved. 

New approaches to our evolving Greater Sudbury Market are underway this year with the introduction of a Thursday Pilot Market on York Street. The Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council members are hard at work engaging the community while developing our city’s food strategy. 

Community kitchen drop-in programs operate city-wide in hopes of educating and encouraging families and individuals to develop skills when it comes to cooking from scratch. Events focussed on seed saving and gardening — such as the upcoming Seedy Saturday on March 4 — and the Sudbury Gardening Festival are growing in popularity with increased attendance each year. 

With all of these exciting initiatives in mind, many people who are involved in these projects and committees thought a monthly food column would complement our city’s growing food movement in order to inform the community about new and existing food-focused organizations and businesses. 

This column’s goal will be to connect the dots that make up the Sudbury area’s evolving food network as an important action to take in order to keep community members engaged and kept up to date on how to get involved. 

In the coming months, keep an eye out for article contributions from entities such as the Community Garden Network, Sudbury Shared Harvest, the Flour Mill Community Farm, Eat Local Sudbury, the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario-North East Committee, Atikameksheng Organics, Greenhouses Canada, the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council and various local farmers. 

Let’s get growing!

Fionna Tough is a new ecological farmer in Sudbury and the Lead Community Organizer for The Flour Mill Community Farm.