Initiative will be a research, demonstration, celebratory, educational garden space in the heart of Charlottetown
© Photo special to The Guardian
Phil Ferraro, general manager of the Farm Centre Association, which received funding from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund, shows the design layout for the new Legacy Farm project.
The seeds for a long-lasting legacy will soon be planted by a new Farm Centre Association initiative.
This spring the association is embarking upon a Legacy Farm project, which is a community-based research and demonstration farm on an eight-plus- acre parcel of land directly behind the centre in Charlottetown.
“The whole idea of the Legacy Garden will be in keeping with the theme of 2014 so it will be honouring the past, giving recognition to the present and helping to create a vision of the future for Island agriculture,” says Phil Ferraro, general manager of the Farm Centre Association, which received funding from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund.
The association, which has partnered with the Agriculture Canada Research Branch, the P.E.I. Food Exchange and The Culinary Institute of Canada, has obtained a long-term lease of the land, which is on Charlottetown Experimental Farm property.
“Our partners include the Agriculture Canada Research Branch and they will be growing lots of grains and vegetables that were actually developed on Prince Edward Island in the past 100 years. We will be including some signage and having some tours of what those crops were and what they meant to P.E.I. and Canadian agriculture,” Ferraro says.
“Another partner is the P.E.I. Food Exchange which became fairly well known this past fall for going out and ‘gleaning’ fields. After a farm has been mechanically harvested they’ll go in to pick food and give it away to charity. Next year they will be growing food (in the Legacy Garden) as well as gleaning from other farm fields.”
The Culinary Institute will also have a garden plot and they will also be hosting a series of dinners at the Farm Centre, which will be coupled with events that all relate to Island agriculture and food security.
In addition to Agriculture Canada’s extensive field plots where they will demonstrate various crops that they’ve developed on P.E.I. over the years, there will be community gardens and research plots where new and under-commercialized crops will be introduced to that people can see what opportunities there may be to growing some of them.
“So between the community gardens, the research trials and the demonstration plots we will also have an activities area. This agricultural research station is actually unique in Canada. It’s the only one that has historically always invited people to be part of it — to walk across it. All of the other agricultural stations across Canada are more restricted,” Ferraro says.
“If you look back at past events it used to be a place bus tours came, where weddings were held, where special events occurred, so we hope to reinvigorate some of that enthusiasm around the farm by having an area where we will certainly be hosting events over the course of the year, but then in the future as the orchard and gardens mature that people will want to utilize the space for their events.”
Ferraro says the Legacy Garden has tremendous potential as an agri-tourism destination, for cruise ship passengers, for example.
“(Also) over the last couple of years is that farmers are using the farm centre as a depot for their community-supported agriculture projects, so within the garden there will be an expanded opportunity for farmers to do that,” he
The half-acre community garden will be established this spring, as will a half-acre orchard of various fruits and nuts. Shelterbelts will also be planted to present an esthetically pleasing landscape as well as a productive landscape.
Educational programming, as well as demonstration farming activities, will also part of the Legacy Farm package.
“This being an urban location in the middle of Charlottetown, urban agriculture is becoming very prominent. The vast majority of new farmers in North America are small diverse farms with direct marketing, and the younger generation of farmers tends to be closer to cities or in cities,” Ferraro says.
“So there might be an opportunity for tools and techniques for small
farmers and urban gardeners.”
There is also an opportunity for horticultural therapy for the elderly, disengaged youth, and those with physical, developmental, mental, and learning disabilities; and garden-based learning for early childhood education.
“There is no design for this to be a commercial farm. We’re not setting out to give space for people to compete with Island farmers. It’s a research, demonstration, celebratory, educational space. . . ,” Ferraro adds.
“It’s a very exciting endeavour. If you look at the original mandate of the Farm Centre it was to be an event centre and a place to help bring together urban and rural people . . . Somehow over the years it kind of lost that vitality and became just an office building. So we’re hoping to reinvigorate the mandate of the Farm Centre as well as the heritage of the (experimental) farm that had always been sort of a destination and celebratory site that was unique in Canada.”