Annie Barnoski


Last Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2022

This past summer, I worked at the NCC as a student. My role with the Real Estate and Facilities Management team involved spending my days at the many Greenbelt farms with my fellow student colleague, Renée.

We supported the Communications team by capturing photos and video of animals, produce and beautiful agricultural landscapes for the NCC’s social media channels. Our mornings on the farms often started bright and early at 7 am, so we wouldn’t miss the perfect shot at the golden hour. Let me tell you that, for a university student who prefers to sleep in, this took some getting used to!

Learning from the farmers

During my first visit to a Greenbelt farm, I wore wool dress pants and a sweater in 35-degree heat. Moving forward, I never left the office without the proper attire and a pair of boots. I learned so much more than this from my summer experience at the NCC, especially from the knowledgeable farmers we met along the way. We learned that

  • there are over 100 varieties of tomatoes
  • gre en peas can be purple
  • zucchini leaves are bigger than my head
  • asparagus looks like a whimsical fairy forest when it’s growing.

Renée and I are very thankful for each amazing farmer who took the time to talk with us about the great work they are doing to support local agriculture in the Greenbelt, and for answering our many questions.

Just Food Farm

Our day at the Just Food Farm started with a short 15-minute drive east from downtown Ottawa. What makes this farm unique is that it’s a non-profit organization working with local businesses, farmers and community members to promote sustainable food production in the Greenbelt and across Canada’s Capital Region.

Upon our arrival, we met Jerryne Mahele Nyota. She truly exemplifies the values of the Just Food Farm and the collaborative spirit of its The Commons program. This community-driven program allows local households to try their hand at gardening on a larger plot of land (1/16 of an acre) with support from the farmers to increase food production and collaboration.

After seeing a lack of programming tailored to the needs of her two adult sons with autism, Jerryne decided to take matters into her own hands. The Commons provided her the perfect opportunity to do so. This unique work space allowed Jerryne to seek the support of fellow community members and Just Food farmers to begin developing her own food-growing program to support others with autism.

By partnering with local schools, Jerryne’s program will provide hands-on experiences, giving those enrolled in the program the chance to work outdoors, learn about sustainable agriculture and take pride in the finished product of their hard labour. Jerryne hopes her future program will inspire others to take action and make their communities a more inclusive environment.

Check out the Just Food Farm website to learn more about The Commons and other community programs:

Coming from the GTA, Renée and I weren’t aware that Canada’s Capital was home to all these incredible farms so close to the downtown core. The Greenbelt provides an important example of how to practise viable and diverse agriculture in a near-urban setting. We hope you take the opportunity to discover for yourself what the Greenbelt farms have in store for you during the summer and fall months.

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