Halifax considers urban gardening to increase food security

Some Halifax-area residents approve of the city’s proposed plan to remove barriers so people can sell produce that has been grown on their properties.

A staff report was first requested two years ago, but a vote will take place at Tuesday’s council meeting to start the process of encouraging so-called ‘market gardens’.

This process will consider whether changes are needed to the municipality’s land use by-laws and planning strategies.

Citing a 2018 study of household food security in Canada, the city says Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity of any province. At 16.7%, the Halifax region is more food insecure than the national average of 12.7%.

Niki Jabbour, well-known Nova Scotian gardener, writer and CBC radio contributor maritime noonsaid she supports initiatives to improve food security.

Niki Jabbour is a well-known Nova Scotian gardener, writer and contributor to CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon. (Submitted by Niki Jabbour)

“It could be part of a larger plan, hopefully in the near future,” Jabbour said.

I have heard from many gardeners over the past two years, they would like the opportunity to be able to sell some of the surplus produce they grow.”

Reduced environmental impact

Jabbour said market gardening should be done not only to increase food security, but also for the environmental impact of reducing the distance food travels.

Jabbour said urban gardening can’t realistically grow all the food a family eats, but it can impact the weekly grocery bill and put money in wallets that weren’t not there before.

She said Halifax should look to places in Europe and the UK that are “a step ahead of us in producing local food in urban areas”.

Pat Fogarty of Fogarty’s Market Garden operates a mobile market from his solar-powered bus and sells produce from his two-hectare residential farm in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia.

Incentives for gardeners

He said that instead of just encouraging market gardens, the municipality should offer incentives to people.

Fogarty said he and a few other farmers are working on a list of measures to present to the city, including property tax breaks for people who want to use their property to grow food for local residents.

He said food safety should be a priority for the government and is more important than other issues, such as installing swings or playgrounds.

Pat Fogarty says food safety should be a priority for the city. (Fogarty Market Garden)

Kolade Kolawole-Boboye, director of Hope Blooms, a community-based agriculture and cooking program for youth in North Halifax, said urban gardening gives people a different level of understanding about food.

He said he has seen a greater awareness of the importance of gardening in the city.

“It’s very cool that there’s a mission to really use space in inner cities… going in that direction will allow a lot of people to start growing their own food,” he said .

Kolawole-Boboye said growing food helps bring communities together.

The municipality said that if it decides to implement changes to allow large-scale vegetable gardening, its charter requires public participation in the process.

Kolade Kolawole-Boboye is the director of Hope Blooms, an agricultural and culinary youth organization in North Halifax. (Submitted by Kolade Kolawole-Boboye)

Fogarty said this consultation cannot come soon enough.

“It’s food safety. It’s a pretty serious thing. It’s been over two years now, hasn’t it?” he said.

“Now is the time to shake things up, to move forward, to get in front of the city. And what I would like to see is a real dialogue with the city, with people like me.”

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Terri S. Tomasini