Updates on Community Gardens as Essential Food Services

At Just Food – April 7 2020

Updates on Community Gardens as Essential Food Services

Thank you! – many of you have written last week to support Community Gardens Must Remain OPEN as Essential Food Services in Ontario, and have signed onto this Open Letter from Sustain Ontario. Just Food’s Moe Garahan was interviewed on CBC News – Declare community gardens essential, non-profit urges.

We all take safety and physical distancing seriously, to stop the spread of COVID-19. And, this can still be done while allowing thousands of people to grow food in community gardens as most rely on that food to feed their families and other community members.

Breaking news from Gatineau! “For the 2020 season, the City of Gatineau is supporting 22 community and collective gardens, 3 more than last year. The current context requires specific measures to comply with the guidelines for physical distance and the use of common equipment. The committees responsible for the sites, together with the City, are to set up the procedures required for the opening of the sites as soon as possible.” This is a Google translation of the relevant French document, read the original message on La Ville de Gatineau website HERE.

Last week, the provincial government in BC reversed an earlier decision and now has made Community Gardens essential services. BC government recognizes in this LINK that community gardens are a way of subsistence agriculture as it is food cultivation.

Similarly, last Thursday, Victoria BC passed a motion for Scaling Up Growing in the City for Community Resilience, in response to food security, which will temporarily reprioritize the focus of some Parks Department capacity to grow 50,000-75,000 food plants from seed in the municipal nursery and greenhouses for planting in the 2020 growing season.  Read this story HERE.

Updates from CGN and Just Food

We at CGN and Just Food have received many emails and understand your difficulty to make decisions on how to proceed with your community garden and its many members. We hear you!

Just Food is working very hard to….

  • Advocate an informed decision and reversal to make community gardens essential food services, so they can continue to operate this year. Across Ontario and across parties, many MPPs are working on this, as are many of our City Councillors.
  • Co-facilitate the Ontario Community Growing Network to develop safety measures and best practices for COVID-19 for community and allotment gardens across Ontario, based on public health input, so as to best coordinate and build on each other’s efforts.  This will be sent to the Ministry of Health next Tuesday to assist them in reversing the decision on community gardens while ensuring individual and public safety. Ottawa Public Health has agreed to work with Just Food to further develop these safety practices for the Ottawa context once the province gives the go-ahead.
  • Communicate with community gardens in a timely fashion – there will be more newsletters than usual on the progress.
  • Get ready for the growing season so we are ready to go as soon as we are able. This includes finalizing a COVID-19 specific garden agreement that every garden coordinator, and every community garden member, will need to sign in order to access their plot, outlining they understand the new procedures for this year and will abide by them.    

Next newsletter coming this week to all gardeners in Ottawa will be all about online garden workshop dates and topics.

Community Gardens Must Remain OPEN as Essential Food Services in Ontario

To All Gardeners and Supporters in Ottawa,

Your support is URGENTLY needed TODAY!

On March 30th, the Ontario government mistakenly identified community gardens as recreation activities for closure (READ HERE), as opposed to essential food services, where tens of thousands of people across Ontario grow food for their households.

Please send your own version of the letter below to your local MPP ASAP today, and copy Just Food at jf2@justfood.ca, so we can see how many letters are coming in.

If you are a member of a community garden, please say which garden you belong to, and why it’s important to you to access food through your garden plot.

Your list of MPPs in the Ottawa area:

Stephen Blais – Orléans – sblais.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Lucille Collard  – Ottawa – Vanier – lcollard.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
John Fraser – Ottawa South – Jfraser.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Hon Merrilee Fullerton – Kanata-Carleton – merrilee.fullerton@pc.ola.org
Goldie Ghamari – Carleton – goldie.ghamari@pc.ola.org
Joel Harden – Ottawa Centre – JHarden-QP@ndp.on.ca
Hon Lisa MacLeod – Nepean – Lisa.macleodco@pc.ola.org
Jeremy Roberts – Ottawa West – Nepean – jeremy.roberts@pc.ola.org

To read more about Gardening and COVID-19 in Ottawa, CLICK HERE.

To read and sign on an Open Letter Calling on Province to Identify Community Gardens as Essential Food Service, CLICK HERE.

Suggested letter template

To [name of your Member of Provincial Parliament or all MPPs if you are a City-wide service],

Everyone is working hard, and we are trusting this is just an oversight, but please immediately remove outdoor community gardens from the list of closures for recreation activities released on March 30th, and place them on the list of essential food services in Ontario.

Thousands upon thousands of families rely on community gardens to produce food for their families each year.  In Ottawa, we have a conservative accounting of 7,000 people relying on community gardens to supplement their food during the growing season.  There has been a major increase in demand for this service since the beginning of COVID-19.  People throughout the province have already invested in their seeds, and started seedlings, for this growing season.

This model of community food production is seen as integral to the COVID-19 response in countries throughout the world, particularly as food prices increase and global food supplies are increasingly uncertain.  Food banks also receive tonnes of much-needed fresh food in Ottawa from local community garden efforts. Community gardening availability should be enhanced, not limited, especially at this time.

We all take safety seriously.  We support community growing with clear protocols that WORK in gardens to maintain public safety, agreed to by public health officials. The Ottawa Community Gardening Network at Just Food is working with public health departments to achieve such safety protocols and is a key partner in communicating critical public health messages to our communities.  However, we must not identify community gardens as recreational activities, as for many, many people community gardens are essential ways that community members access their food. 

Please take immediate action to clarify for everyone in Ontario that community gardening is an essential food service.

Thanks very much!

Your name

Name of your community garden, if applicable.

Gardening and COVID-19

For All Gardeners in Ottawa

We hope you are all keeping well during this difficult time.

This newsletter is to reach out to all gardeners in Ottawa, including those in Community Gardens, to provide you with some updates, and seek your input in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.

We gardeners are creative, strong and resourceful! Did you know that there are minimum 6,000 – 7,000 community garden members in Ottawa within 100 community gardens?  Let alone the thousands of people gardening at home.

Together, we can do a lot!

If you are a Community Garden Coordinator: Please forward this email to all of your gardeners, and encourage them to sign up for community garden newsletters by clicking here.  Fill out this contact form to be sure you are on our coordinator-only emails.


1. Gardening at an unusual Covid-19 time
2. SeedLing Saturday scheduled for May 23, 2020
3. Gardening workshops
4. Ordering regionally adapted seeds for your gardening needs

5. Watch Cornwall’s Seedy Saturday Online

1. Gardening at an unusual Covid-19 time.

Just Food believes firmly that all gardening, including in community gardens, in yardshare situations and in households, are essential services.  

We have asked Ottawa Public Health for their advice for gardeners working outdoors, including in a Community Garden or Yardshare setting.  We are working with other networks, compiling practices under discussions in other regions in North America, and will share with you as soon as we have it together. So hang tight!

Just Food will be hosting all meetings and training workshops through Zoom until further notice. 

What are your ideas?

With food security becoming ever more looming, and many uncertainties ahead, we are gathering tips and ideas on how communities, households and businesses are responding to food access. 

Physical distancing (not social distancing!), type of food to grow this year, online community garden AGM, volunteer days, staggered gardening schedules…

What are some of the strategies you are considering for this year’s gardening season?

What measures are you taking and are seeing as effective in this community or reading about in other communities related to gardening?

Your experience, ideas and expertise can help us plan for regulations allowed for gardens this year.

Please click here to share your information or ideas

For Community Garden Coordinators:

If your Community Garden group needs an online meeting, including an AGM, we can set that up on our Zoom platform for you…

Please click here to indicate you would like a meeting set up for your garden.

2. SeedLing Saturday Scheduled for May 23, 2020

We have previously posted about East Ottawa Seedy Saturday on April 18, 2020. 

While seeds are an essential service, this event is CANCELLED, based on the ability of people to purchase seeds online.   (Please see #4 below for a list of seed companies).

However, seedLings need to be picked up, so Just Food is hosting a

SeedLing Saturday!

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 2020.
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking)
COST: Free admission (with strict requirement to adhere to physical distancing standards)
RSVP: Keep your eyes on the next newsletter for details on time of the event, and how to sign up.

If you are a seedling vendor and would like to participate, please click here and we will send you additional information beginning of April. 

3. Gardening workshops

Online Workshops

Learn food gardening basics from instructors who are experienced.

First, we are providing BASIC gardening online recorded sessions for FREE, so everyone who is interested in food gardening can get started.

The topics include:

  1. How to plan and grow a small garden on your balcony or pots/container. 
  2. How to plan and grow a garden in your backyard, front yard or community garden plot.
  3. Indoor Seed Starting.
  4. Making compost and building soil outside.
  5. Vermicompost – making compost inside and year-round.
  6. Container food gardening. 
  7. Natural Pest control.
  8. Water-saving gardening design.

These sessions will be available online on the Just Food website.

We will send out the dates to you shortly, in our next email.

For gardeners looking for broader topics and more intermediate skills and to get tips in an interactive way, we are going to host a series of interactive online workshops, from seed starting to harvest to food preservation to fermentation to herbalism. 

These workshops will be hosted by Just Food with community partners, and will be provided at cost ($5/person), or a free option if you don’t have the money.


Indoor Seed Starting Workshop for your Organic Vegetable Garden

Choose one of the two identical sessions

– Monday, March 30 at 1 PM – 2:30 PM (Event link), and
– Tuesday, March 31 at 1 PM – 2:30 PM (Event link

Please note that there is a link in the registration pages listed above, where there is an option to participate for free, if you do not have money.

The next newsletter coming out very shortly will have more topics and dates.

We need your input

*If you have the knowledge to be a trainer on any relevant topics, or
*If you have topics you want to see covered in an online workshop at any point during the growing season, 

please click here to let us know.

We URGENTLY need facilitators with experience growing in the Ottawa region to teach BASIC GARDENING in French and Arabic. if you have this expertise, please get ahold of Sun Shan at communitygardening@justfood.ca

4. Ordering regionally adapted seeds for your gardening needs

It is important to order seeds immediately if you haven’t already.

(If you or other gardeners don’t have the ability to purchase online with a credit card, or are low-income and don’t have money for seeds, please click here, and we can assist you in finding another way.)

We encourage you to use UNTREATED seeds. For community gardens, using untreated seeds is a requirement.

To ensure garden success, find seeds that are adapted to this region, either through a fellow gardener, or one of the vendors from the Organic Seed Directory put together by Canadian Organic Growers. The link to access this Directory is https://www.cog.ca/home/find-organics/organic-seed-directory/. Organic seeds are chemical-free and untreated, and they were grown under Certified Organic conditions.

In addition, check out

Bird and Bee Seeds

Email: info@birdandbee.ca
Phone: 613-601-9177
Address: 2391 Pepin Court, Ottawa, ON, K1B 4Z3

Richters Herbs

To email them, click here.
Phone: +1.905.640.6677  Fax. +1.905.640.6641
Address: 357 Highway 47, Goodwood, ON L0C 1A0 Canada

There are other seed companies that you might be buying from that have regionally adapted seed.  If they are not listed above, please let us know so that we add them. Thanks! Email CGN Coordinator at communitygardening@justfood.ca.

Have we said to order seeds immediately if you haven’t already? 🙂

5. Watch Cornwall’s Seedy Saturday Online

This past Saturday, Cornwall hosted an online Seedy Saturday. Watch the recorded Seedy Saturday video here on Transition Cornwall facebook page (you don’t need a facebook account to watch): https://www.facebook.com/TransitionCornwall/videos/636814140475290/.

Topics covered are:

Indoor Seed Starting Workshop | Register Now!

In partnership with Capital Greens, we’re hosting this workshop where you’ll learn how to get nearly 100% germination, and how to create the ideal conditions for your seedlings to grow into strong, healthy, high-yielding vegetable crops!

WHEN: Two identical workshops: March 30 and 31 from 1-2:30pm
WHERE: Online
COST: $10 per person
(If payment is an issue, participants can attend for free at the registration pages below) 
RSVP: For March 30th, please register at http://justfood.nationbuilder.com/indoor_seed_starting_workshop_20200331

For March 31st, please register at http://justfood.nationbuilder.com/indoor_seed_starting_workshop

These workshops will be hosted by Just Food with community partners, and will be provided at cost ($10/person).

*Note that there will be a chat feature which you will be able to use to ask questions during the workshop!

The webinar will begin with a ~30-minute “classroom session” (to get you up to speed on some of the theory) followed by ~1hr demonstration in you’ll be shown how to prepare your growing medium, fill your pots, plant your seeds, and then care for your seedlings.

A hands-on tutorial with face-to-face interaction would be better in terms of education, but we feel an obligation to do our part to protect the vulnerable people in our community, and to slow the spread of this virus.

Transforming and Sustaining Local Food: Ottawa’s 2020 Local Food Networking Event

WHERE: Restaurant International, Algonquin College School of Hospitality
COST: $0 (Lunch included) *Parking is $4/hour

Join us for the Ottawa Local Food Networking Event for farmers, chefs, food retailers and processors on Monday, April 6, 2020 from 11:00am – 2:00pm (previous date March 10). 

Presented by the Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism in partnership with the Egg Farmers of Ontario, Just Food, City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism.

RSVP required: priority will be given to local farmers, chefs, retailers, and processors.

Free lunch, courtesy of our sponsors!


  • Presentation from the Mayor on the new Rural Strategy and Action Plan
  • Highlights from local food regional innovators on sustainability including a keynote by David Beking of Beking’s Poultry Farm

February 2020 Newsletter

News and Events in the Ottawa Region  

Just Food News and Events 

1. Fermentation Training – LAST CHANCE to Register for First Session  

2. Feb 28 | Agri-Art Tour 2020 Information Sessions

3. Mar 7 | Ottawa West Seedy Saturday

4. Apr 18 | Ottawa East Seedy Saturday at the Just Food Farm

5. Learn to Keep Bees with Success | Registration Open for 2020!

Other News and Events 

6. Mar 14, Apr 4, 18 and May 2 | 2020 Urban Organic Gardening Seminars

7. Permaculture Meetup Group in Ottawa

If you received this monthly newsletter from someone else and would like to receive it directly, sign up here. If you have a food or farm-related event or issue that you would like posted on this newsletter, send a request to info@justfood.ca.         

Although all volunteers and community partners of Just Food want to ensure Ottawa has a vibrant, accessible, sustainable food system, we have many diverse perspectives on how to get there. Just Food welcomes this diversity and believes that it is through working collaboratively with different opinions that we will arrive at a healthy food system for all. Any information that Just Food sends can include information from different community members and community partners and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Just Food.  If you ever have a question about any information listed here, please do not hesitate to e-mail info@justfood.ca or call 613-824-7771.

1. Fermentation Training Sessions    

Last chance to register for the first session starting March 4 (postponed from Feb 26 due to weather). Registration for Second Session is still open.

WHO: People who sell food or are planning to sell food
WHEN: First session is three Wednesday evenings:
March 4, March 11 (and the third date TBD together with participants on March 4) – 6pm to 9pm  
Second identical session is two weekends:
April 25 and May 2 – 10am to 3:30pm
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking) 
COST: $110            
RSVP: Click here to register

Topics include:

  • Non-alcohol fermentation and its potential for incorporating into your existing food/farm business
  • Lacto-fermentation such as making kimchi and tabasco style hot sauce
  • Fermenting beans and peas for making miso and tempeh
  • Grain fermentation varieties, including no-sweetener-added desserts such as sweet rice ferment or jiuniang, and using grains in vegetable lacto-fermentation
  • Daily ferment such as kefir
  • And many more…

Please contact chigarden2015@gmail.com if you have any questions about the event.

2. Feb 28 | Agri-Art Tour 2020 Information Sessions

WHEN: Friday, February 28, 7-8:30 pm
WHERE: Just Food Farm Red Barn, 2391 Pepin Court, Ottawa

Join the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network and Just Food for an information session that will interest farmers, processors, food producers, artisans and artists across Eastern Ontario. The Agri-Art Tour 2020 will take place from September 3-5 across eastern Ontario, if you are interested in hosting or being a vendor at a host location, come to the info session above.

For more info contact phil@justfood.ca and see the poster here.

3. Mar 7 | Ottawa West Seedy Saturday 

Come and stop by the Ottawa Seedy Saturday on March 7! 

WHEN: Saturday March 7 from 10am to 3pm
WHERE: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, Britannia Beach, 102 Greenview Ave
RSVP: For more info, please click here

There will be plenty of fun to be had with a day of garden talks and seed sales, and seed exchanges. 

4. Apr 18 | Ottawa East Seedy Saturday at the Just Food Farm

New in 2020—a second Seedy Saturday event is happening in East Ottawa, brought to you by Just Food in partnership with Greta’s Organic Gardens!!

WHEN: Saturday, April 18
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking)
COST: Free admission – free workshops
RSVP: Keep your eyes on this newsletter for details

As a complement to the long-running, always bustling Ottawa Seedy Saturday in Britannia in early March (see above), this East end event will give you another chance to find, buy or swap seeds as well as many seedlings.  

If you are a seed vendor and would like to participate, contact info@justfood.ca

5. Learn to Keep Bees with Success | Registration Open for 2020!

Capital Bees is now accepting registration for their Hands-On Natural Beekeeping Program.

The course runs from April through October and is held in the apiary at the Just Food Farm in Blackburn Hamlet. Capital Bees provides the support you need to keep your bees alive and thriving.

To register or for more info, please click here.

6. Mar 14, Apr 4, 18 and May 2 | 2020 Urban Organic Gardening Seminars

The Urban Organic Gardening Seminars are back for 2020!

WHERE: Hintonburg Community Centre, 1064 Wellington St
WHEN: Saturday mornings 9:30am-12:30 pm
March 14th, April 4th, April 18th, May 2nd
COST: One session $20, all four sessions $70
(Discounts are available for students and those facing financial barriers)
RSVP: To register or for more info, please click here

Whether you are new to gardening or a seasoned horticulturist, there’s always something to learn from Canadian Organic Growers’ gardening seminars. Each session has two seminars touching on a different gardening skill such as seed starting, planning, composting and seed saving. 

2020 Urban Organic Seminars

7. Permaculture Meetup Group in Ottawa 

Learn about permaculture with the new Meetup / Facebook group for the Ottawa-Gatineau area!

This is a discussion and skill-sharing group for all things permaculture including mushroom hunts, local permaculture tours, looking at permaculture applications in our daily lives, experiencing local food, geo/solar greenhouses, etc.

Check out their Meetup group here and their Facebook page here.

Agri-Art Tour 2020: Information Sessions in Manotick (Feb 25) and Blackburn Hamlet (Feb 28)

Join the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network and Just Food for an information session about regional farm and food tours in 2020 that will interest farmers, processors, food producers, artisans and artists across Eastern Ontario!

The Agri-Art Tour 2020 will take place from September 3-5 across eastern Ontario. If you are interested in hosting or being a vendor at a host location, come to one of the following info sessions: 


WHEN: Tuesday, February 25, 7-8:30 pm

WHERE: Manotick Community Centre Activity Room


WHEN: Friday, February 28, 7-8:30 pm

WHERE: Just Food Farm Red Barn, 2391 Pepin Court, Ottawa

For more info, contact phil@justfood.ca

Fermentation Training 2020 | Register Now!

WHO: People who sell food or are planning to sell food
 First session is three Wednesday evenings:
February 26, March 4, March 11 – 6pm to 9pm  
Second session is two weekends:
April 25 and May 2 – 10am to 3:30pm
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking) 
COST: $110            
RSVP: Click here to register

Topics include:

  • Non-alcohol fermentation and its potential for incorporating into your existing food/farm business
  • Lacto-fermentation such as making kimchi and tabasco style hot sauce
  • Fermenting beans and peas for making miso and tempeh
  • Grain fermentation varieties, including no-sweetener-added desserts such as sweet rice ferment or jiuniang, and using grains in vegetable lacto-fermentation
  • Daily ferment such as kefir
  • And many more…

Please contact  chigarden2015@gmail.com  if you have any questions about the event.

Background: What is fermentation? Why ferment?
Why is Just Food providing fermentation training?

Just Food partners with Chi Garden to provide a fermentation training that covers the history, science, safety, regulations, and techniques of fermentation. This training will take a system-approach and gives the participants an overview and comparison of many different fermented foods in the market as well as a variety of applications and new product ideas.

Similar to sustainable farming, fermentation is about working with good microbes. Some of these beneficial microbes occur naturally (such as in sauerkraut-making) while others were selectively domesticated, and co-evolved with humans for thousands of years (such as in miso-making).

The training session is designed for businesses that sell food, make food for various clientele, or plan on doing so in the Ottawa region. These can include restaurants, kitchens, food processors, grocery stores and farms.

Vegetables, grains, seeds, beans and peas, meat, dairy can all be found in their fermented forms. Come and find out how you can add fermented products into your business for wonderful taste, variety, cost-effectiveness, waste-reduction, innovation, and more!

From kefir to kombucha, from kimchi to miso, fermented foods have been steadily rising as a food trend.

Yet fermentation is much more than a fashion. It re-connects us to some of the most exciting culinary cultures around the world. Fermentation IS culture.

Although fermentation is now associated with cool trendy foods and even fine dining, it was originally associated with affordability. Since fermentation can turn ordinary ingredients into very tasty, safe and nutritious products, it helps empower communities and people with limited means.

Fermentation can also be used to divert food waste, and give new life to end-of-day produce. Fermentation techniques are low-cost, easy to learn and require no fancy equipment or technology.

Fermentation techniques can make food taste great in a way that is safe, nutritious, and preserves much longer. Our ancestors fine-tuned fermentation techniques long before science and understanding of the microbes at work.

Fermentation is an ingrained part of the local food movement. The sharing of global fermentation knowledge has opened up unprecedented opportunities to revamp the uses of local ingredients and turn them into diverse and amazing sauces, condiments, drinks, and staples.

Your Ideas are Needed to Help Design Just Healthy Neighbourhoods in Ottawa

Your ideas are needed to help design Just Healthy Neighbourhoods in Ottawa before Council votes in March.

WHEN: Saturday, February 22, 2020 from 10:00am – 4:00pm
WHERE: 1701 Woodroffe Ave, Hall A, Nepean Sportsplex
ACCESSIBILITY: Bus tickets and childcare cost available to those with participation barriers
RSVP: Please register here. Registration is required.

On February 22nd, city-wide organizations are holding Just Healthy Neighbourhoods: an action-oriented event sharing information and ideas on how Ottawa can be a sustainable city without expanding the urban boundary.

  • Bus tickets and a small amount of childcare cost will be provided for those with participation barriers. For more information, please contact Khulud Baigat at kbaig@cawi-ivtf.org
  • Vegetarian lunch will be provided
  • Presented by Healthy Transportation Coalition in collaboration with Just Food, City for All Women Initiative, Ecology Ottawa, the Federation of Citizens Associations, Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital, and Healthy Transportation Coalition 

Photo credit in featured image: David Doran