It started with a question. “Can you pay for the removal of $60,000 worth of dirt?” The answer was obviously “no” but nobody dwelled on that. The question revealed an opportunity.
The Explore Edmonton Urban Farm was a centrally located farm, along major transit routes, with a plot of underutilized land directly adjacent to it. Sure, it contained a massive pile of dirt, but the potential to expand by 100% (a quarter city block) was enough to look beyond the immediate obstacle.
Communities United engaged with different community groups and stakeholders, expressing that if the chance to expand was possible, CU and the Butler Family Foundation would provide funding for some of the costs of the expansion. That outward expression of interest encouraged an internal removal of dirt - and so the expansion moved forward. Throughout the bulk of this project, no contracts or MOUs were signed before work could progress. Instead, what was present was a high degree of trust and a willingness to make the most of the incredible opportunity available.
What is now happening (as of August 2022):
18 diverse community groups, 2 businesses, and 9 individuals have growing space
250 individuals are coming out to farm, gather, learn, and access programming
Four 7’ x 16’ greenhouses have been added, along with a gazebo, chicken coop, rabbit hutch, irrigation systems, and beehives
Funding from four more sources, amounting to over $100,000
The Urban Farm has become a thriving hub of activity - farmers, families, youth, artists, and educators are connecting, sharing, creating new networks and opportunities, and growing food.
“When we first started looking at this site it was not delivering any value to the community. And now we have people that come to the urban farm that learn about pollination, they learn about chickens, they learn about composting and agriculture…It’s hard to believe that you’re in the middle of the city when you are here.”
- Jessie Radies - Director, Strategic Programs and Initiatives, Explore Edmonton Corporation