Here you will find information on Common Roots Urban Farm. Our mission and vision, history, farm team, and contact information.
The Common Roots Mission
Our mission is to promote a holistic approach to health and build capacity for urban farming and gardening by empowering our community to grow and eat healthy food and connecting people with restorative landscapes.
Common Roots Urban Farm is a community-driven project that aims to promote a holistic approach to health and wellness through empowering our community to grow and eat healthy food, and connecting them with restorative landscapes. Activities on the farm will reflect ideas and projects which promote social, environmental, economic and cultural sustainability. This fits into a bigger vision of creating a pilot project of an interim use garden, as well as the goal of having an 'incubator farm in every district.' We hope to build this vision collaboratively with our community over the next couple of years.
“This project has the opportunity to become the heart of a sustainable Halifax, bringing a wide range of people together with the simple goal of celebrating community, good food and good health." – Niki Jabbour
Common Roots Urban Farm began as a interim use for the site of the old Queen Elizabeth High School. While this site is earmarked for future hospital expansion, Capital Health determined they would like to find a community use for this site, one with a strong connection to health. The Board of Directors from Partners for Care was tasked with the opportunity of exploring an urban farm on this 3.5 acre piece of property. Their goal was to have a project that incorporated elements of health, education and agriculture. After considerable citizen engagement, the design and programming for the Common Roots Urban Farm was established. When future expansion occurs, sections of the Urban Farm will be reduced but not eliminated.
A primary mandate of Partners for Care is to initiate “strategic initiatives for community health.” Partners for Care is proud to do its part in supporting Capital Health’s mission of ‘Healthy People, Healthy Communities’ through developing and managing services and social enterprises such as the VG Farmer’s Market, gift shops, the Mindful Mango Cafe, and Bike and Ride. Like CRUF, these services benefit the staff, patients, and their visitors and provide educational opportunities for those involved.
Originally formed as an auxiliary in 1989, Partners for Care is now supported by a small, skilled staff, drawing on the experience of 14 individuals, businesses, and hospital volunteers who form its Board of Directors.
In 2010, the Dalhousie Cities and Environment Unit (CEU) and Partners for Care formed a partnership, held an engagement session and developed a strategic plan that was a result of a Public Forum. This forum helped to develop CRUF’s Guiding Principles, which you can find here.
Since we officially launched in June 2012 after a series of public meetings in 2011, CRUF has already accomplished many of our goals. Under the direction of one full-time paid project co-coordinator, with two part-time summer students, our first season was an undeniable success. We were able to secure 15 dedicated core volunteers and 25 host volunteers to host 50 group visits from eight schools, 18 university groups, four church groups, 11 marginalized-youth groups, two new-Canadian groups, five day camps and two corporate volunteer groups. Feedback from participants has been largely positive, and many expressed that their experiences were educational, enjoyable and important.
In 2012, we had an average of 65 people working on the farm each week. Our farm activities have brought together a diverse range of people and groups in a variety of ways. We have hosted workshops, drop-in work parties, collaborative land-based art projects, architectural design projects, community social work projects, as well as children, teen and youth farm-related games and opportunities for at-risk and marginalized-youth to develop and broaden their skills.
In 2013, we have expanded our 42 plots to 109, and in June, Fiskars will come for a day to build even more. Fiskars and Canadian Tire will partner with Common Roots for an Orange Thumb Makeover to develop community plots and accessible spaces. The proposal for this makeover also included accessible beds, a pizza garden and shed.
We expanded the Host program, and this year CRUF has a solid crew of 23 Hosts! This expansion was made possible by Capital Health Volunteer Services, who administer this program. It is so important to have Hosts because it allows our farm to be open daily 3-6pm, as long as the weather permits.
As we are in such close proximity to the hospital, we want to make our site more accessible to fragile populations. The Halifax Kinsmen Club has generously donated resources towards making arbours that will provide shady sitting areas where visitors to the farm can relax and enjoy the beauty of the garden and perhaps be inspired watching the plotters at work!
We hired a farmer, Sara Burgess, and began the market gardening in earnest. CRUF placed a seed order with Halifax Seed in order to grow seven crops for the Kynock Parker Street Food Bank CSA.
Our Friday work parties are consistently well attended by one to three dozen people. Wednesdays and Thursdays have youth development programs come work on the farm to develop employability and healthy living skills. Our community partners continue to grow by word of mouth enthusiasm for the integrity, worthiness , and enjoyment of our project.
The CRUF Steering Committee is made up of a group of senior managers of the organization who provide advice and guidance on business issues with a high impact on the project. This committee also encompasses the Chair of the Advisory and the Project Coordinator. Day to day CRUF business is managed by the Project Coordinator, who reports to the Senior Manager, Business Development and the Director of Managed Services.
Brian Rankine - Director of Managed Services, Capital Health
David Kersey – Senior Manager- Business Development, Capital Health
Mike McKenzie - Manager - Business Development, Capital Health
John Gillis – Advisor - Marketing and Communication, Capital Health
Mark Nener - Community Planner, Cities and Environment Unit.
Doriano Sabalone – Project Manager- Engineering Services, Capital Health
The CRUF Advisory Committee is present to advise the Project Coordinator and make recommendations to Steering.
Mark Nener - (Chair) Community Planner, Cities and Environment Unit, Dalhousie
Christine Dube - (Co-Chair)Recreational Therapist, Veterans Memorial
Lesley Flemming - Horticultural Therapist, Florida Hospital
Janice Morrison - Recreational Therapist, Cape Breton Greenhouses
Amy Lounder - Farmer, Centre for Small Scale Farming, JustUs! Wolfville
Bev McPhail - Manager of Horticulture, HRM
John Hartling - Youth Navigator, Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development
Carolyn VanGurp - Volunteer, Common Roots Urban Farm; Teacher, HRSB
Emma Fitzgerald - Architect
Bailey Austin-McMillan (Secretary) - student, Dalhousie, International Development and Environmental Science.
Project Coordinator - Jayme Melrose
Jayme has spent years contemplating how everything we consume has an impact on the landscape. In 2004, she completed the Linnaea Ecological Gardening Program in BC, followed by a degree in Community Design at Dalhousie. She fell in love with Halifax, and is now honoured to be busy coordinating this exciting project! As Project Coordinator, she coordinates the Staff and Core Team volunteers.
Farmer - Sara Burgess
Sara holds a Master’s in Environmental Studies with a focus on place attachment and environmentally responsible behaviour form. After over a decade away, she returned to Nova Scotia last summer to apprentice on an organic farm in Stewiacke. Once the season ended she found herself in Halifax where, hoping to continue being involved in the farming community while living in the city, she found her way to Common Roots. She is excited to delve into this season of urban farming alongside other Haligonians, watching people further their attachment to their place, food and environment.
Communications Developer - Carrie Gilbert
Carrie has a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of King’s College. Her background in research and writing involves work for such companies such as CEED and Skills Canada-Nova Scotia. In her spare time, Carrie volunteers two days a week at the Leave out Violence (LOVE) program, where she has been a mentor to at-risk youth for the past six years. Carrie considers herself to be highly creative and enjoys meeting new people and exploring different ideas. She is excited to be able to partake in a project like Common Roots. Carrie has written for a variety of audiences, allowing her to use her words as a way to be an advocate on someone else’s behalf, something she looks forward to incorporating as a voice for ensuring Halifax is a healthy community.
Summer Students and Interns
We are delighted to have so many interns! We share a Dietetic Intern from Mount Saint Vincent University with the Community Carrot Co-op. For the next 14 weeks, Kelly Pearce will be helping to show how farm produce becomes delicious food. We are starting with cooking a meal onsite every Friday. We are honored to have a Horticulture student intern with us this summer through the NSCC Kentville program. Conal Cunningham is a great budding gardener! We have three interns through Dalhousie's College of Sustainability, who are each involved in projects that support their interests and education in urban agriculture and sustainability. They will have the opportunity to learn more about their field, work with others, and contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of the farm.
We are blessed to have a Core Team through Capital Health’s Volunteer Services. They perform both inside and outside tasks and help us to organize everything from plotters to Hosts and beyond. They are our heavy lifters whose titles include Plot Coordinator, Host Coordinator, and Calendar Coordinator.
Dr. Jason Hofman – Composmeister
Brenda McGilvray – Host Wrangler
Sarah Horne – Calendar coordinator
Jenny Reich – Plot coordinator
Rob McNeish – Dalhousie Liason
Karen Raynard – Plant Whisperer
Carolyn Van Gurp – Advisory Liason
Joanie Bears – Plant Wrangler
What our Community is saying about Common Roots.
"Pride in Community and promise for a healthier population drive the vision that the Partners for Care Board of Directors holds for the future through the Common Roots Urban Farm. As Committee Chair for this unique, leading edge initiative I’m delighted at the manner in which so many community interest groups have embraced this project with ownership, enthusiasm and optimism.
This project has enlightened so many people already and will continue to offer so much to our larger community not just the neighbourhood in immediate proximity. It’s a window into our future and a promising illustration of positive change affecting our lifestyles and how we can all live in a more balanced manner.
Our many and widely diverse sponsors and supporters are to be thanked for their engagement and generosity. Given that the project will receive no public funding this is a remarkable achievement and measure of the quality of our community.”
Robert (Bob) C. Shaw
Chair, Common Roots Urban Farm
Board Member, Partners for Care
"Planting a seed, watching it grow and eventually harvesting the plant for food is a remarkable experience that I have found to be rather addictive. I was eight years old when I made the connection that homegrown food tastes better than store bought and I've never looked back. As an avid veggie gardener, I see The Common Roots Urban Farm as an invaluable opportunity to educate people about where their food comes from, how rewarding it is to cultivate a garden, as well as highlight the importance of keeping both body and mind active. This project has the opportunity to become the heart of a sustainable Halifax, bringing a wide range of people together with the simple goal of celebrating community, good food and good health."
Host of The Weekend Gardener,
Author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
"We’re excited for the opportunity to have CEED's Second Chance participants volunteering with Common Roots Urban Farm over the next few months. We’ve been very impressed with the project from the beginning and are especially appreciative of the efforts they have made to work with our group in a way that meets the needs of the participants. We would highly recommend the project to other Youth Service Providers looking for a fun and meaningful way to incorporate service learning into their programs.”
Program Facilitator - Second Chance
Centre for Entrepreneurship Education & Development (CEED)
"Common Roots is going to offer us a real opportunity to grow health in our community. We know community based gardens and agriculture have many positive outcomes for both communities and individuals. Increasing availability to nutritious locally produced foods is a key objective for public health nutrition in Nova Scotia. Common Roots has the potential to showcase a beautiful and diverse way to do this in the heart of our city, while contributing to positive nutritional outcomes. It’s wonderful to see Capital Health supporting such an innovative project as we move towards a better tomorrow."
Public Health Nutritionist
"Thank you very much for the time and effort you put into preparing for and then presenting the Friends of Halifax Common with an update on the progress Common Roots is making. It is an exciting project and really the outcome of a very valid public engagement. Best wishes for continued success. It is also such an important beginning for shifting the model for health and wellness from reactive to proactive. We'll keep our fingers crossed that the importance of that message grows."
Friends of the Halifax Common
"This is a project that has the opportunity to break down a lot of barriers."
Public Safety Office
Halifax Regional Police
"The Common Roots Urban Farm represents a unique innovation in the use of open space, even if temporarily open, for truly sustainable development. I say "truly" because there are ecological, social, AND economic benefits to managing the vacant urban land this way. The Farm venture represents a wonderful opportunity for both city residents and university people - students and professors alike - to engage in a variety of learning experiences. For our part at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies, we intend to work with the farm managers to design research projects that will reduce critical uncertainties about producing food and other plants deep in the heart of the city".
Professor and Director
School of Resource and Environmental Studies
"I have witnessed the positive impact that this program has on our clients. For the last two years I have been providing support to a client who has been dealing with many different challenges that have affected her normal functioning. In the last month her self-esteem and perspective of life has transformed radically because she feels productive, useful and has gained hope that her life can be better. She is very enthusiastic about learning and is committed to work hard in her English program besides her participation at the garden. For the first time in her life, she feels that she can learn English which was a huge struggle because of her feelings of powerless. Thank you very much for putting in place this program for our clients and hope it continues and expands to reach out more immigrants."
Carmen Celina Moncayo
Family Support Program Coordinator
Immigrant Settlement & Intregration Services (ISIS)
“Common Roots Farm was super-inspiring. The story of how land was reclaimed spaces and purposed for helpful, healthy, active outdoor education to help families and community members get their hands dirty and experience a new way of gardening is so unreal. Especially when mixed with immigrants and restaurant owners who are able to share their knowledge with those around them including the farm coordinators themselves. I don’t think I have ever left a field trip feeling so light and determined to become and stay involved in community farming.”
Sustainable Food Systems and Community Development
Jayme Melrose, Project Co-ordinator
Cell: (902) 441-4288