Urban Farm

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

On this page we answer some answer some frequently asked questions. Have a question that hasn't been answered? send us an email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Urban Farm

Community Plots

Market Garden

Farm Policies

Financial Support





Origin of the farm?

Capital Health owns the land and held public meetings to discuss the lands temporary use (5-10 years). It was decided to create an urban farm to support the hospital’s goals of healthy living and sustainable food policies. The farm consists of three main areas: the Market Garden, maintained by the farmer; Community Plots; and Edible Landscaping which includes all other areas such as the fence lines, food forest and meadow, nibble plots and demonstration gardens.

 Can anyone harvest the food?

The food in the Nibble Beds (clearly marked) can be harvested by anyone. The harvest from the market garden is for the Parker Street Food Bank and the weekly Farmers Market. The harvest from the community plots belongs to the individual plot owners.

 Can I volunteer on the farm?

Yes! Every Friday from 2-5 pm, and on some special event days, we welcome everyone to volunteer; just show up and we will put you to work. Volunteers can also help the Hosts every day from 3-6 pm if the Hosts will have them. All volunteers need to sign the waiver every time they come to work. We can also accept more volunteers to the Core Team if they are interested in doing organizing, fundraising, or grant writing, etc. Contact the Project Co-ordinator for an interview.

Is the soil contaminated?

No. The soil is all imported with the knowledge that the public is growing food here. We have done soil contamination tests on the subsoil and the top soil and results show minimal contamination, all well-within legal limits. Copies of soil test results are in the Host Binder tab Soil Tests. For more information ask Dr. Jason Hofman, the compost manager, to review the tests and soil science with you.

 Do the car and bus exhaust harm the food?

This is a really hard thing to measure; there is little science in this area. We would be interested in having scientific researchers use this site to explore this question.

 We know that healthy soil makes healthy plants, so we work to make the healthiest soil we can. We also know that we are not using any toxic sprays on our vegetables. When we buy inorganic food from the grocery store, we cannot be sure of either of those two above things.

Do you get a lot of theft and vandalism?

We have come to the farm in the morning and seen traces of people having been bulls-in-a-china-shop the night before. But there has not been any real damage, any real mal-intent. 

There certainly has been some theft of vegetables. We are trying to get people to NOT steal from the Plots or Market Garden, but take from the Nibble Plots instead. We have not seen any food vandalism, only food theft.  And, from what the little birdies told us, it was stolen by people who use the food bank anyway. Food theft is not the worst thing -  it is success in a way.  We just hope to get people to take from the Nibble Plots, and ideally come to help out, and start more gardens (even guerrilla gardens) with the goal of city-wide food security.

 What should I do if I see someone stealing food from the community plots or market garden?

It's ok if you're uncomfortable approaching them, but if you can explain to them that taking food from the Nibble plots is OK, but the Market garden is for the Food Bank or hospital and the Community plots is for people or organizations that have purchased plots. Most people make an honest mistake thinking that all food is available for the public. They are welcome to help garden the Nibble plots if they want. We have resources for those who want to guerrilla garden; seeds in the public seed box, soil, and they can even use tools from the outdoor shed, as long they are returned.




Who can get a plot and how do they sign up?

Any individual or organization can apply for a plot. The plots are all assigned for the current year but there is a waiting list. You can get your name on the wait list by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The cost is $40/year for a 12’ x 4’ plot, or $20/year for half a plot. You can find someone to share the plot, or we match you with someone.

When can I start working in my plot?

As soon as you have completed the one hour orientation. If you are a returning plotter, you can access the site as soon as the soil can be worked and the Plot Coordinator has given you the go-ahead.

Can I physically encase my plot?

Yes, but use only the approved designs and materials approved by Capital Health listed in the Plotter Binder tab Design. If you want to do some thing different, you must write up a brief proposal that illustrates what you would like to build, with what materials, giving as much detail as you can and submit that to the Project Coordinator by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Can I plant anything I want in my plot?

Yes, if it is not an illegal or invasive plant, e.g., goutweed. Check with the host or farmer about whether something is invasive.

Can I use non-organic fertilizer in my plot?

This is not prohibited, but it is not encouraged.

 Can I use pesticides and herbicides in my plot?


Can I buy amendments, compost and fertilizer from the farm?

Yes. Ask the host. Costs are:

Compost                    $10 / plot (one inch layer)

Amendments                        $15 / 4 KG bag

  • 1 part alfalfa meal

  • 1 part bone meal
  • 2 parts rock powder - glacial till
  • 2 parts Irish moss dust

How often do I water my plot?

Water deeply once a week unless it is very hot and dry, then several times a week. Always water at base of the plants and not from above. Early morning is the best time to water, then early evening.

Do I have to weed my plot?

Weeding is a contentious issue. What is a weed? A weed is a plant we don’t want growing where it is. Some plants compete with crops and are best removed. Others are helpful soil builders and pot herbs. Check with the farmer about specific plants.

How do I mulch my plot?

You can use the straw available on the farm.

  • To mulch a garden of small plants (e.g., seedlings), simply use your hands to place a layer of straw around the base of the plants and over all exposed soil (e.g. between plants and along the sides of the bed).
  • To mulch a garden of seeds, place a thin layer of straw over the entire garden. It is important that the mulch is applied thinly so that the plants can grow up. Some plants may be too fragile to push through the mulch.

What do I do with the pulled weeds and inedible harvest?

Add it to the farm compost by putting it in one of the grey plastic boxes by the compost heap. If uncertain where to put it, ask the host.

What do I do with excess harvest?

Give it to the host or farmer and we will make sure it is either given to the food bank or identified as available to use by the public or other plotters.

Are there programs or workshops for new gardeners?

Hosts have information about workshops and the basics for new gardeners.

What plants are easiest to grow for new gardeners?  How do I plant seeds/seedlings?

Hosts have information about plants and how to plant. If you are planting from seeds check the reverse of the seed package for directions. Check the brochure created by the Spryfield Urban Farm for planting dates; it is in the Plotter Binder.       

  • Seeds should be planted at a depth of twice as deep as they are wide.
  • For tiny seeds, place them on the surface of the soil and barely cover with soil.
  • For seeds that need light to germinate, simply place them on the surface of the soil and press them gently to ensure good contact with the soil.

Can I have the same plot from year to year?

Yes. Just reply to the email sent in March of each year asking if you want your plot.

Do you have free seeds or plants?

Sometimes.  If there are extra seeds they are in the Public Seed Box on the stand beside the shed. If there are extra seedlings they are by the flounder in the plaza, and clearly marked as FREE.


 Can I buy some of the food?

Yes, every Tuesday there is a Farmers Market from 3-5:30 pm.

Is there a farmer?

Yes, we have a farmer/Market Garden Co-ordinator who is responsible for planning and managing the fertility, planting, cultivation, harvest and delivery of vegetables in the Market Garden.  This year we will have 5 workers helping the farmer. The workers are part of Deep Roots pilot job skills program, that is being developed in partnership with ISIS (Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services). The farmer is also supported by the many volunteers.

What is grown on the farm and who gets the food?

We grow a variety of mixed greens, lettuce, kale, swish chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, summer and winter squash, radishes. Half of the food is given to the Parker Street Food Bank, financed through the CSA’s. 

This year we are piloting a social enterprise on the farm. We will be selling produce from half of the market garden and flowers from our new flower farm to local restaurants and businesses, at the VG Farmers Market Friday mornings and have an onsite market on Friday afternoons from 3-6. In this way we hope to make the farm more stable as it will allow us to rely less on donations and grants for basic operating costs year to year.

Is the food organic?

Not certified organic but we do not use any pesticides or herbicides and do use organic practices. We think of ourselves as old-school organic, or dirt farmers, in that we pay a lot of attention to nourishing the soil so the healthy plants just grow. 

Where do you get the soil and compost?

Kynock Resources donated the soil for years one and two.  This year we will purchase the soil from Kynock. We have an onsite composting process and the compost is used in the market garden. Additional compost for the Market Garden will be composted cow manure from a local farmer.







What is the role of Hosts?

Volunteer Hosts are on site every day from 3pm – 6pm to provide information to the public, assist the community plot holders, and tend to the general areas of the farm. This includes their assigned area of edible landscaping, as well as the general tidying of the pathways, meadow, fence line, any garbage that blows in, the shed area, etc.

What is the role of volunteers?

Non-Host volunteers can assist the Hosts any day from 3pm – 6pm after they sign the waiver.  They can help with whatever the Hosts are doing, or with whatever the Market Garden Co-ordinator and Project Co-ordinator set as priorities.  Non-Host volunteers are also welcome to assist with particular projects on the farm, every Friday 2pm – 6pm, once the Hosts have gotten them to sign the waivers.

What clothing is appropriate for the farm?

Anything comfortable.  No open toed shoes, no flip flops.  Wear a hat and sunscreen.

Is there parking?

Not on site, but paid parking is available in the hospital parkade, entrance off Robie Street.

Can I bring my dog to the farm?

Yes, but it must be on a leash at all times.

Can I bring children to the farm?

Yes, but you must supervise them.  We have a sand box, with some toys.  A children’s garden is proposed for construction in 2014.

Are there toilet facilities?

Yes, there is a port-a-pottie by the shed.  There are washrooms in the hospital but use the main entrance – do not go through emergency.





How is the farm funded?

One staff position is supported by Partners for Care, the fund raising arm of Capital Health.  The other staff positions are paid by grants and fund raising separate from Partners for Care.  Local businesses, such as Kynock Resources and Halifax Seed, support the farm through material and plant donations.  We also raise money through Food Bank CSA sales.  Partners for Care provides some administrative support.

Wholesale and weekly Farmers Markets

This year we are piloting a social enterprise on the farm. We will be selling produce from half of the market garden and flowers from our new flower farm to local restaurants and businesses, at the VG Farmers Market Friday mornings and have an onsite market on Friday afternoons from 3-6. In this way we hope to make the farm more stable as it will allow us to rely less on donations and grants for basic operating costs year to year.

How can I financially support the farm?

* Purchase a perennial for the Flower Farm:  $10

* Sponsor one food box delivery to the Parker Street Food Bank:   $20

* Sponsor the annual plot fee for someone who can't afford it:   $30

* Sponsor the building of new plot:   $100

* Sponsor a half-share in the Food Bank CSA:  $250

* Sponsor a full-share in the Food Bank CSA:  $500

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