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Common Roots Urban Farm sows its seeds

After picking up and moving across town, the community garden reflects on its season and plots what’s next.


Common Roots Urban Farm grows veggies native to its volunteers’ homelands. - SUBMITTED
  • Common Roots Urban Farm grows veggies native to its volunteers’ homelands.

8th Annual Harvest Hootenanny and Pumpkin Smash
Bi-Hi Park, Bayers Road
Sat Nov 2

As its successful first season in a new location winds down, Common Roots Urban Farm only sees growth in its future.

Despite a delayed opening as a result of heavy rains, CRUF has been prospering at its new location at the Bi-Hi park on Bayers Road since June. Although this new location is smaller and has less foot traffic than its original site on Robie Street, CRUF has been adapting to its new community with ease.

"In five months, we've really fully grown; it's been inspiring to see what can be built in such a short period of time," says Sara Burgess, the coordinator for Common Roots Urban Farm Bi-Hi. "We did a lot of work to be prepared and to fight the fight, but we've generally felt really supported and made great connections with the new community that we're in."

CRUF has hopes to expand its current location and eventually add additional gardens across the municipality, similar to its sibling location in Woodside at the Nova Scotia Hospital. An administrative order from the HRM Charter says that a community garden owned by the municipality cannot be more than five percent of the size of the property, which poses issues with Common Roots' ability to grow its Bi-Hi set-up. Burgess is hopeful that they will be able to work beyond that order in the future.

"We'd really like to look at how we can conserve more communities by having several smaller farms around the city," she says.

CRUF is more than a community garden. A hybrid of market garden and community plots, it also doubles as a communal area to explore and unwind. Since re-opening at the Bi-Hi location, CRUF volunteers have built 36 community garden plots, 17 productive veggie and flower market garden beds and three common plots for public use and consumption. On top of this, over 500 volunteer hours and 1,500 wheelbarrows of soil have gone into turning this new location into an urban paradise.

"What's special about an urban farm is with the space that we have right now, we have a variety of people all together at once, spending time on the farm or eating side-by-side at lunchtime," says Burgess. "The power of these urban agricultural spaces bringing people together is really strong and needed."

CRUF grows a combination of produce native to Nova Scotia and produce that can't be found at the grocery store; these veggies come from countries where their volunteers originate. The farm's volunteers are made up of a variety of different people across the city: From newcomers to low-income families, or people who just like to garden with company, everyone is welcome. CRUF also hosts events for YMCA children's camps, HRM youth leadership groups, school groups and more.

One of its upcoming events is the annual Harvest Hootenanny and Pumpkin Smash. Common Roots' biggest event of the year, the Hootenanny features free food, garlic planting, a scavenger hunt, live music and more. At 3:45pm, attendees are invited to share a massive, multicultural meal featuring Syrian and East-African food made by volunteers.

Common Roots Urban Farm encourages attendees to bring their jack-o-lanterns from Halloween and quite literally smash them. The resulting pile will be turned into compost for the garden, so that the farm can flourish next season.

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