McQuesten Urban Farm was originally designed as a way to make food accessible downtown. After a neighbourhood profile released by Hamilton’s social planning and research council in 2012 noted that McQuesten’s poverty rate for children under six was 75 per cent, which was more than triple Hamilton’s rate. That is when efforts to make the farm a reality started, with the McQuesten community planning team and neighbourhood rallying to combat food insecurity in the area. The farm covers four acres behind the former St. Helen’s school in Hamilton’s east end in the Parkdale Ave.N and Barton area. It’s a city-funded farm and is in its fourth growing season for crops.
Part of the way it helps is that volunteers are able to take food home after they work to their families, and an on site market sells produce to people at low cost. But it also features a playground, irrigation pond, pollinating meadows, and greenhouses configured from shipping containers. And in an effort to help the children in poverty in the area it has reached out to them in interesting ways. The farm launched camps and workshops to teach kids about farming and cooking. “Fun things” were planted, like berries and sunflowers, to entice kids into playing and increase the likelihood that they’d try new things. The good news is it worked! So while adults paved the way for its creation, when it comes to embracing nutritious food, workers agree that the kids are the true leaders. “They’re the brave ones that are trying things and bringing them home,” said Amy Bonin, farmer and on-site manager.
The farm is also trying to change the image of subsidized or free food and the stigma associated with it with their message being “Making food without boundaries.” Aside from their selling food at their market, their vegetables are also included in the Niwasa food bank. Bonin explained that having recently harvested produce is a stark difference from canned goods. The vegetables are also grown organically, though the farm has yet to be certified as such. The farm is also running its second year of weekly “weed and feeds” where people can help with farm tasks and gather afterwards for a family-style dinner. In an effort to make the meals “farm foods first”, ingredients are preserved so that they last for a season.
While you can read more about the McQuesten Urban farm in your Good News Story of the Day here, you should know the true beauty in this farm is their efforts to spread the joy and nutrition of fresh grown, local produce and the understanding that it isn’t just for those with more means. “Everyone deserves quality,” Bonin said. “It shouldn’t matter your income. Everyone deserves to have fresh, real food.” You can find more about McQuesten Urban Farm or support them on their website, you can also following them on social media as they are on Facebook and Instagram.
Story and Image from CBC News.