A Message from the Board Chair: Our New Community Space

Brief Comments by Patricia Ballamingie, Just Food Board Chair, following Marie-France Lalonde, MPP, Ottawa-Orleans at the announcement on February 17th, 2017, regarding the funding for a new community space at the Just Food Farm.

Thank you kindly, Marie-France, for making this exciting announcement, and sharing in our celebration. And I am so pleased to have Brewster Kneen here with us today, representing our dear former Chair, Cathleen Kneen, who was instrumental in negotiating our lease and advancing our organization. My name is Trish Ballamingie, and I serve as Chair of the Board of Just Food.

We are tremendously grateful to the Ontario150 Community Capital Program, and to the Trillium Foundation, for this critical funding, and to our partner, the National Capital Commission (and we are pleased to have NNC representative, Bill Leonard, Geoffrey Frigon, and Cedric Pelletier with us here today).

The Just Food Farm boasts this large, two-story hayloft barn – one of the remaining gems in Ottawa’s Greenbelt – in dire need of repair and renovation to realize its potential to connect and enrich the community for decades to come – a joint goal of both Just Food and the National Capital Commission!

The barn itself is currently in active use, but under less-than-ideal conditions; it must be renovated to bring in electricity, water and heat, to ensure accessibility, and to highlight environmental design; and retrofitted to significantly extend and expand its community

A renewed facility would benefit the adjacent neighborhood of Blackburn Hamlet as well as other community-based organizations across Ottawa with whom we regularly collaborate; and the general population, as well as the Just Food Farm community—including an annual intake of start-up farmer trainees, plus long-term partners such as the Karen Learning and Education Opportunities (refugees from the Thai/Burma border); Operation Come Home (who work with street youth); Radical Homestead (beekeepers); The Wild Garden (Amber, our resident herbalist and children’s programmer); Nanabush Food Forests (forest gardeners + off-grid mushroom cultivators), and Earth Path (children’s programmers).

The site attracts thousands of people from across the city (to participate in programs and educational workshops, attend our Sunday farm gate stand, walk the property, or drop their kids off at summer nature camp…).

Renovations would provide much-needed three-season COMMUNITY EVENT space for: educational food literacy workshops; community gatherings, local food celebrations and public events; and rodent-proof seed library storage; indoor farm equipment storage; and on-site, four-season offices for Just Food staff, volunteers, partners and interns. [We finally have an organizational home!]

This funding will help the Just Food Farm truly become a Community Food and Sustainable Agriculture Hub (and the barn will showcase sustainable building practices such as adaptive reuse of dismantled materials, composting toilets, green energy, and more!).

This legacy project will not only stimulate economic opportunity, but also bolster community connections – augmenting social capital and enriching Ottawa Valley food cultures. Canada’s 150th anniversary represents an ideal opportunity to revive a piece of its heritage to CONNECT COMMUNITY around food and sustainable agriculture in Canada’s capital!

If you have time for an informal tour, I would invite you to join myself and Just Food’s Associate Director, Phil Mount, for a walk through the barn, so that you can see the BEFORE, and envision what we have planned for the near future!

Thank you so much!