Micro farm will provide food and activities for KW Habilitation
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WATERLOO — California-style tomatoes, rhubarb and basil are just a few of the vegetables KW Habilitation will be growing at their new urban micro farm in Waterloo.
After a successful community garden project in 2011, KW Habilitation turned their backyard into a farm they hope will feed and engage their residents.
KW Habilitation provides services for adults and children living with developmental disabilities. Their largest program is the 23 residential facilities across the region.
“It’s very therapeutic to get people involved in gardening,” said Tracy Franks, director of community participation at KW Habilitation. “And we are looking at reducing some of our food costs for the people that we support residentially.”
The farm is also a way to teach skills like planting and watering, skills that Franks said can be employable after people leave KW Habilitation programs.
Rows have been staked and planted, waiting for the farm’s first crop to bloom. They also built three raised beds Monday night for people with mobility issues to be able to farm comfortably. They are also planning a narrower bed that is raised even higher for people in wheelchairs to be able to reach.
“We will be able to cater to all physical abilities,” Franks added.
The micro farm is one of several projects that are a part of Project SOIL (shared opportunities on institutional land), a provincewide initiative that explores the potential of growing food at public institutions like health care facilities and schools. It is spearheaded by Phillip Mount, a geography and environmental studies professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Some of its other pilot projects include Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, a high school in Fergus and hospitals in Thunder Bay and Alexandria.
With help from the Young City Growers, a youth agriculture initiative, KW Habilitation was able to set up the 6,750-square-foot farm in just a few weeks.
It wasn’t easy for KW Habilitation to pull together the farm project, but executive director Anne Bilodeau said they secured funding from local businesses and the community for the first year of the project.
“It’s a whole bunch of partnerships that are coming together,” Bilodeau said. Interns from Young City Growers are lending their green thumbs and Project SOIL has a landscape agriculture research assistant dropping in to check in as well.
It is a great way for KW Habilitation residents to learn about farming, Bilodeau said.
Dwarf apple trees and raspberry bushes are next on the planting list. Franks said she hopes they can churn out some fresh pies at KW Habilitation’s new café and industrial kitchen in their renovated Kitchener building.