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Calgary earthship greenhouse gives urban farm a year-long harvest

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Farmers do what they can to extend the meagre growing season Calgary is dealt, but there’s a group on the Grow Calgary urban farming lot taking growing in the city to an unimaginable level: 365 days a year—all made possible by what Scott Davidson calls an earthship greenhouse.

Tires piled high, and cans encased in cement make up the structure, which was built off of donations and recycled materials. It doesn’t look like much, but soon this pile will house as many plants as can fit in the small space, year round.

“I don’t know what kind of intensity farming we can pull of with this, it’s my first attempt,” said Davidson. “We’re going to have multiple crop rotations in there, I’m going to experiment and see if we can get some dwarf banana trees and pineapple trees growing in there.”

Earthships are normally known as housing concepts. They are built up to be self-sufficient, using the suns rays to heat a packed-soil retaining wall and gathered rainwater instead of tapping into city pipes. This structure borrows from the traditional earthship builds, but adds a greenhouse element to the mix.

This build will have two greenhouse spaces, one which will have a steady more-tropical temperature and the second greenhouse will house the Alberta-indigenous crops that can take the climate’s fluctuating temperatures.

Davidson broke ground on the project in June, and has been working with five to 10 volunteers ever since. He hopes to finish the project in December and start growing in the new year.

“The greenhouse should be growing food, up to and including the vertical growing along the walls as well,” said Daivdson. “Even in the coldest months of the year here in Calgary, we’re still going to be producing fresh greens and vegetables for the Calgary Food Bank.”

Paul Hughes, farm manager at Grow Calgary said he's really excited about the project. He feels like urban farm isn’t producing nearly enough food baskets for the Calgary Food Bank, and they are always looking for ways to extend the season and optimize how much crop makes it into the hands of the hungry.

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