Urban agriculture centre in Ajax nearly ready for public opening

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Published August 17, 2023 at 9:53 am

A new food security and sustainability initiative in north Ajax aims to address challenges in food security and supply chains through the lens of urban agriculture by educating local community members about nutrition, gaining access to food and incorporating local and healthy food into their lifestyle.

Shovels went into the ground last October for the project, which was launched by Durham College’s Barrett Centre for Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture, in partnership with the Town of Ajax’s Ajax Partnership Fund. The Barrett Centre’s new Food Literacy Innovation Zone is still under construction but will be ready for an Open House this October.

“Food insecurity and supply chain constraints can lead to a lack of nutritious food that is accessible to the community, especially those who may be unable to locate a variety of food close to home,” said Brenna Bizley, partnership manager at the Barrett Centre. “Having educational materials in conjunction with the Barrett Centre Ajax Urban Farm will have an exponential impact on the community as people learn about the impact of food on their health and the importance of growing locally.”

Three garden models are being designed – a pollinator garden, home garden and balcony garden – and will act as a template to “inspire” members of the community to grow their own food at home. There will also be knowledge sharing through resources and materials to support and enhance food literacy via direct community engagements and the Barrett Centre Community Portal, coming this fall.

“Ajax Council and the Town of Ajax are proud to support the Barrett Centre’s new Food Literacy Innovation Zone through the Ajax Partnership Fund,” said Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier. “Thank you to Durham College for partnering with the Town to be able to offer these important resources to our community. This investment reinforces Ajax’s commitment to being a municipal leader in green and sustainable practices to ensure a healthier Ajax for all.”

The urban farm has its roots in Durham College’s Whitby campus and broke ground on what is still considered a temporary location on a regionally owned property at the corner of Harwood Avenue and Rossland Road in Ajax last October 6.

The new Barrett Centre location is being provided by the Regional Municipality of Durham for the Barrett Centre’s urban farming project until the site is required for infrastructure expansion.

The Barrett Centre was launched at Durham College’s Skills Centre in Whitby in September 2021, thanks to the support of The Barrett Family Foundation, with a vision to become an internationally recognized hub of excellence in urban agricultural practices, research, education and training. This included a working urban farm and an education and research program to turn undeveloped land in Durham into an active farm that supports the community.

The farm will introduce new educational programs and training; provide support and coaching about urban agriculture initiatives for traditionally underserved and marginalized communities; and build a team of highly respected experts to establish the Region as an internationally recognized centre of innovation in sustainable urban agriculture.

“Durham College is a recognized leader in urban agriculture education,” said Foundation spokesperson Bob Barrett at the ground-breaking. “The vision to modernize and replicate their current model of urban farming into a regional, national and global entity is very impressive and innovative. Our investment in the college and creation of The Barrett Centre will allow them to scale their operations into a global hub for urban agriculture knowledge and best practices.”

The Region is committed to supporting and growing the agri-food sector. In 2019, the Durham Region Local Food Business Retention and Expansion Project surveyed more than 60 local food businesses to create a system-wide approach for accessing local food, supporting local agri-businesses and enhancing food literacy.

Two years later the Agriculture Workforce Project was developed to inform Durham Region residents of careers in agriculture and agri-food production, their essential role in the region and to encourage residents to enter careers in the agriculture industry.

 

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