April 13, 2016 - The City of Thunder Bay, along with Roots to Harvest, unveiled a new program and site plan on Monday evening to transform the former soccer fields adjacent to Volunteer Pool into a productive urban agriculture site, where young adults will gain leadership and employment skills through gardening, bee keeping, and raising rabbits.
The site plan was developed by Stuart Oke, Community Grower for Roots to Harvest, in consultation with renowned farmer Chris Blanchard, owner of agricultural education organization The Purple Pitchfork. Members of the neighbourhood and the general public learned more about the vision for the site, the benefits for the local community, and how they could get involved.
The program will target older youth aged 18 to 30 years who experience barriers to employment. Through five-month paid internships, program participants will learn how to cooperate as a team, take initiative, and build long-term employment opportunities. “Nothing instills a strong work ethic in young people better than agricultural work,” stated Julie Rosenthal, a former farmer from Murillo and lead facilitator of the new Roots to Harvest Program. “This model stems from the success of other Roots to Harvest’s programs throughout the city, including the urban garden site at Cornwall Avenue and Algoma Street.”
Over $300 000 has been secured to fund the project, including grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Agricultural Adaptation Council, LUSH Charity Pot Foundation, Fiskars and private donors. Partnerships with the ASAP program at Kiigenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services, Fort William First Nation and YES Employment Services will serve as the backbone for funding participant wages during the five-month internships.
“This partnership with Roots to Harvest is a great opportunity to explore how urban parks can become more productive environments,” said Werner Schwar, Supervisor – Parks & Open Space Planning. “When the project gets underway, it will give both deserving young adults and members of the community an opportunity to transform an underutilized space into hundreds of square metres of productive vegetable gardens.”
For more information, visit rootstoharvest.org