The agriculture and agri-food sector is a key driver of the Canadian economy however it has not always attracted the younger generation, until now. Youth today are becoming increasingly engaged in food production, food security, and sustainability, more interested in where their food comes from and curious about starting micro farms, brewery’s and other self-sufficient ways of living. Food security, access to food, environmental sustainability in the industry is a multigenerational issue. Giving today’s youth the tools they need to tackle these real-world issues is of the utmost importance as they enter the work force.
No.9 Gardens will be a way to mobilize youth in hands-on learning experiences working towards reduction in hunger, addressing sustainable food systems and creating healthy and safe food options. At the same time, the Gardens can help address the generational gap in the sector, provide unique training opportunities and provide opportunities to innovate.
This initiative will transform a 40-acre farm in Elgin, Ontario into a living example of a sustainable working organic farm and culinary kitchen. No.9 Gardens will enable the public and students to engage in hands-on learning experiences, exposing them to topics such as local food production and food security, environmental sustainability, and creating safe and healthy food options. In addition to providing education for students of all ages, the Gardens will be open to local residents and members of the broader community, all of whom will be able to receive agricultural job training in organic farming practices, learn about local food systems, improve culinary skills with locally-grown produce, go on nature walks, rent canoes, kayaks and bicycles, and attend specialized workshops in health, wellness, and living sustainably. Upon full build-out, the site is planned to be a net zero carbon development that will benefit from the surrounding natural environment.
The Gardens will further contribute to economic development opportunities such as increased agri-tourism and local food production. No. 9 has partnered with Wendy’s Country Market, a hub for local food in the area which is located a short distance from the subject site. This partnership will support the Garden’s goals in producing locally-grown foods to supply the on-site culinary kitchen as well as local elementary schools.
Phase 1 of the project will require the conversion of the existing barn to a studio teaching and crafting space, development of three yurts and one sleeping cabin to provide low-impact sleeping accommodations, one new hoop greenhouse, approximately two acres (0.8 hectares) of cropland, beehives, mobile chicken coops, a dock, and a privy.
Phase 2 will include a dedicated carpentry shop and storage shed for farm equipment, a seed storage facility, a children’s play area, additional cropland, greenhouses and gardens, a market booth for retail sales, a culinary teaching kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining areas, seasonal visitor accommodations (sleeping cabins), and staff accommodations.
No.9 Gardens will be a place for youth to gain hands-on learning experiences about local food systems and the environment. The Garden’s inaugural programming will focus on providing Indigenous youth with applicable skills in architecture, design, sustainability and construction, along with a high school credit upon the completion of two hands-on learning workshops. The first workshop will involve the construction of a 15-foot Birch Bark Canoe and the second will be No.9’s 'Imagining My Sustainable Community' program that culminates in a built model of their reimagined community. In partnership with the non-profit Focus Forward and their community partners in Wiikwemkoong, No.9 will work with 15 Indigenous youth from the Katarokwi Rivers Program in Kingston.
This project is made possible by: