Comfort Food

Preserving the Harvest

Connecting farmers, families and local food

Something interesting is going on in West Carleton. A small not for profit organization called Deep Roots Food Hub has been quietly going about drawing up plans, looking for land and recruiting local farmers, market gardeners, health and business professionals.

For the past two years this collective has been studying health and food issues in West Carleton and looking for solutions to problems as diverse as food deserts, distribution limitations and constraints to accessing local, healthy and fresh food.

Deep Roots board member Robert Tovell reports that farmers and market gardeners identified problems with connecting to customers once the growing season ended. As these customers fall out of contact during the winter it can be hard to re-connect in the spring, leaving farmers to search for new customers. Other barriers included the lack of infrastructure to store crops once harvested. With no way to keep produce fresh or to extend the market season farmers are pressured to sell quickly.

Preserving the Harvest podcast
Logo for Deep Roots Food Hub
DIY Root Cellar Workshop

DIY Root Cellar Workshop

Fermentation Workshop

Fermentation Workshop

The minds at Deep Roots Food Hub speculated that if they could provide growers with storage they could not only keep and preserve the produce year-round, but also retain their customers over the winter. The idea of a community root cellar was born that would rent out space to farmers, allowing for year-round sales opportunities and increasing the amount of food sold during the non-producing winter months. Thus are local residents able to purchase fresh local food and farmers have a market for their product.

With community partners EnviroCentre, the Centretown Community Health Centre and Ottawa Public Health, Deep Roots was successful in obtaining a New Leaf Community Challenge grant in 2015. Two years of planning and fundraising later, the root cellar will be breaking ground this year with plans to begin use in 2018. The structure will measure roughly 400 square feet with a capacity to store up to 40,000 pounds of food. Temperatures in the root cellar hover between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius making the perfect environment for storing crops – warmer temperatures can cause produce to sprout and wilt or significantly colder and they can freeze, ruining quality.

Nicholls Good Food Corner Store

Nicholls Good Food Corner Store

This grassroots organization has deep ties with its community and aims to not only increase food security but also empower and educate. Deep Roots has been offering workshops throughout the year on growing, harvesting, canning, fermenting and more. Other projects include a partnership with Ottawa Public Health’s Good Food Corner Store initiative to bring fresh produce and healthy options to the popular Nicholls General Store. With the average round trip to a grocery store from home at roughly 35-45km, residents of West Carleton can purchase healthy staple items without having to travel as far thanks to this collaboration.

Creating a secure and sustainable food system and teaching essential food skills, Deep Roots Food Hub seeks to fill not only the hunger gap but the hunger for a sense of community.

Credits

Sound effects

Photographs

  • Deep Roots Food Hub

Music

Video

  • Ontario Apple Growers