by Deron Johnston
There are a number of people involved in both the local food and sustainable agriculture community that believe that the Kemptville Campus represents a golden opportunity. The institution of Kemptville College was built on agricultural education, and many feel that tradition could and should continue, even if a community college or university is not involved directly in offering programming.
If you drove north on the 416, then merged onto the 417 and headed east to the address of 2391 Pepin Court, you would find the property of a grass roots, non-profit organization called Just Food. The property itself is a 150-acre farmstead west of Blackburn Hamlet in the Ottawa Greenbelt, between a residential area and the protected region of Green’s Creek.
Just Food’s mandate is “to work towards, vibrant, just and sustainable food and farming systems in the Ottawa region”. Additionally, the organization wants to enhance ongoing access to healthy food for everyone in the Ottawa region, to promote sustainable agriculture systems that include growing, harvesting, raising, processing and distributing, and to strengthen the productive capacity of the local foodshed. Just Food’s property has been certified as an organic operation by Ecocert since 2014.
One of their programs, which would be of interest to both local food and sustainable agriculture fans, is their Start-up Farm Program. The program was established to support new farmers in the Ottawa region by offering access to land, equipment, shared infrastructure and training. The goal of the program is to empower people to start their own successful farming business. Even if you’ve never grown anything beyond dandelions, this program is a low-risk way to gain experience, test new ideas and explore new markets and networks, before committing to a larger, long-term farming operation.
Kemptville Campus is just under 630 acres in area. If an organization like Just Food wanted to start up an operation similar in size to the one on the east side of Ottawa, it would take up less than a quarter of the campus space. The operation could start smaller and grow over time as it gains capacity and becomes more viable.
An organization like Just Food would seem to be a perfect fit to work with a local food hub. A food hub could process anything that is grown by the farming operations and could then distribute it through a supply chain and/or open a retail food store or café/restaurant. The Kemptville Campus has a commercial kitchen which would be perfect for a food hub operation, and has a good-sized seating area in the cafeteria which could easily serve as many people as an average size restaurant (we’ll talk about this more in the weeks ahead).
The Executive Director of Just Food, Moe Garahan, was the keynote speaker to open the Rural Summit that took place this past April on the Kemptville Campus. In subsequent conversations about the possibility of building an organization like Just Food on the Kemptville Campus, her reaction was “Yes! How can I help?”.