By: Dina Arsenault
Affordable, nutritious, locally and sustainably grown organic food readily available to everyone, no matter what their income ~ seems like a pipe dream right?
Wrong. One Niagara area resident has made it her life’s passion!
Renee Delaney, the Executive Director and Lead Farmer of The Niagara Farm Project, created this collaborative organization as a means to recognize food production as an important ecosystem service central to the welfare of Niagara area residents. The overall goal of the project is to develop a system of farming specific to the Niagara region, a region in desperate need of a self-reliant food economy.
Delaney, a single mom of two knew that she needed to provide a safe place for her kids to grow up in and learn the inherent benefits of “putting their hands in the dirt” instead of wrapped around a video game controller. An active practitioner of homeopathy, Delaney knows the direct correlation between eating a healthy diet and preventative health.
Delaney also knows firsthand what the struggles and hardships are for people living under the poverty line. “I am poverty” Delaney says, “And I have learned to become resourceful in order to survive”
One way Delaney has discovered she can apply her resourcefulness and in turn help to relieve the anxiety associated with living on a low income, is by tackling the ever rising grocery bill. Delaney’s objective is for The Niagara Farm Project to act as the seed to sow a co-operative local food economy that is accessible and affordable for everyone. While working with local area farmers and continuing to add land to farm, in just over 2 years, The Niagara Farm Project is in the process of acquiring its fourth donated lot of farm land, bringing the total to over 80 acres, and over 19 farmers.
This season began solely with organic produce planted in permaculture style beds, along with preparation for livestock locations for this coming Spring – consisting of cows, chickens and pigs. The focus has always been on quality rather than quantity as all of the seeds used are of the heirloom variety and the livestock are from heritage breeds.
Currently, there is only a single fruit stand in front of the Grimsby area Delaney farm with a sign which reads “Free Vegetables”. But are they really free, you ask? Yes, yes they are to all those who do not have the resources to pay.
Those who stop by the fruit stand will leave something if they can afford it, but if they can’t, they don’t have too. Instead of paying with money, individuals have the opportunity to pay with their hands and sweat by helping to work the farm, and they will in turn be paid in organic vegetables. “We take care rather than take from” says Delaney.
Once a network of farms and farmers have been established, the goal is to have the organically grown produce to be readily available to the public for free from farm stands across the region showcasing the benefits of a community supported agricultural program and a collabrative distribution network that spans the entire region. While donations are appreciated, they are not expected, as the goal is to have the produce available to everyone in the region no matter their economic situation.
The success of this project relies on the support of the community. Likeminded people, farm land and a shared value system are necessary ingredients to grow The Niagara Farm Project Collective.
This is where YOU can come in. There are a variety of ways you can support this project – you can donate funds, your time or your resources.
When you partner with the Niagara Farm Project by donating your time and or resources you not only have the opportunity to learn about permaculture farming, you also receive fresh, organically grown vegetables in exchange. Its a win win.
For more information on The Niagara Farm Project please visit www.niagarafarmproject.ca. Ultimately, The Niagara Farm Project is striving to be an awareness campaign.
“Once people know this, they will understand the benefits of working together for the advancement of holistic and mental health through the practice of co-operative permaculture style micro-farming. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be so self reliant as a food network, that we never have to rely on grocery stores again.” ~ Renee Delaney
Yes, yes it would be and we encourage all of you to take those baby steps towards that ultimate goal together with the Niagara Farm Project.
Thank you Renee Delaney and The Niagara Farm Project for showing us and the Niagara region what it truly means to be a community winner!