“Urban Farming and Local Food Careers Program” Grant
In 2014, the Foundation funded Everdale to work on three goals:
- Establish a training program that produces skilled employable/entrepreneurial graduates.
- Assist replication of this model in other communities.
- Get individuals started in their urban farming and local food careers and support the development of local food economies.
Everdale’s reason for undertaking this work was to address an aging farmer population and support new farmers. Everdale offers two key programs to help new farmers learn and develop the necessary skills to support local sustainable farming: a Sustainable Farming Certificate (SFC) program; and The Farm Planner program.
In 2016, the average age of a Canadian farmer was 55 years old. Farmers age 55 and older account for close to 55% of all farmers (an increase of close to 2% since the last census) while those under the age of 35 account for just 9% (2016 Census of Agriculture). With an aging farmer population the issue of renewal needs to be addressed to revitalize our countries rural communities
Everdale has had over 200 participants come through the Sustainable Farming Certificate and Farm Planner programs in the past decade resulting in over 100 new agricultural businesses. Over 85% of these participants are under the age of 35.
One of the most significant contributions of the Foundation’s funding was to support Everdale to write a manual for its Sustainable Farming Certificate program. This has allowed the organization to fulfill a long-term goal to share the program with others and help build a community of like-minded farmers.
In addition, to the manual, the Foundation’s funding supported Everdale to provide support to youth leadership development through an internship program. This program allowed youth to gain experience on the farm as well as in organizing farmer’s markets in various communities. The quotes below from youth interns highlights some of the learning that took place:
One intern called the program a “life-changing experience.” Some of the in-field experiences that were most memorable were helping to build two 36 metre greenhouses, growing edible fungi in logs, learning how to drive a tractor, and planting marigolds to keep insect pests away. This intern also learned a lot in the nutrition workshops, “If you can’t read the back of a label, if you can’t understand it, you have to keep it off the dinner table.”
Another intern noted that “understanding soil” was a big deal. “Everything starts there. All you need to grow something is organic matter. You can grow tomatoes in 100 per cent worm poop, which is amazing to me.” He had wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps — they were farmers in Jamaica — but didn’t have the money or opportunity. The internship program changed all that, says the self-described “lucky dog.”
Everdale’s mission is to be a farm-based organization that provides hands-on, solution-based food and farming education to build and engage healthy local communities. In the year 1998, Everdale was built on the dream that practical learning and hands-on experience are the keys to forging a future where agriculture works sustainably with our local environment. Everdale’s facilities and programs are designed to educate people about farm and food issues while fostering connections between farmers, consumers and the environment.