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Jan
25

Taking over Riverglen

Hello again,

I just wanted to add a few comments for anyone considering farming at Riverglen Farm. I think this 100 acre, urban farm has a great deal to offer to a dedicated team of farmers. Its proximity to a huge customer base, great quality soil, farmhouse and outbuildings mean tremendous potential for the right candidates.

Perhaps even more importantly, this can essentially be a turn-key opportunity. The gardens are prepared, the fences are up, the irrigation infrastructure is there, the hoophouse and coolers are built, the wash station and prep areas are ready to go, there’s almost two dozen acres fenced for cattle, and the customers are eager to sign-up for their 2017 veggies. The value of this can be difficult for an up-and-coming farmer to grasp, but I cannot overstate how much this will help catapult your new business towards financial sustainability. Even without the equipment, there is a significant amount of momentum and interest around this farm that can make launching your new enterprise significantly easier.

The main concern which everyone has been bringing up is the relationship with the National Capital Commission, the organisation who owns the property. For young, eco-minded, forward-thinking, farmers-to-be, the idea of interacting with the real estate division of a huge crown corporation, who also happens to be the largest landowner in Ottawa, is, to say the least, very intimidating. The NCC does have a reputation for being somewhat ruthless in its interactions with various parties, and it has tremendous clout and authority over its assets. Without a doubt, they are exceptionally good at getting things to go their way.

However, the National Capital Commission is still made up of human beings. Many of these people are very talented, passionate individuals, committed to improving the relationship between the NCC and its tenants. In particular, the newly overhauled staff administering the NCC’s agricultural portfolio are determined to providing better service to its farm tenants, and are taking concrete steps to make that happen. This is definitely a good time to get involved with a greenbelt farm.

You will have help and support. I can share lessons learned over the years, and there are also more and more like-minded farm tenants already within the greenbelt, a notable example being the good folks at Just Food Ottawa. If you are well prepared, I know you can establish a positive relationship with the NCC and in return have access to an incredible, unique piece of agricultural property in Ottawa.

When considering taking on this farm property, make sure you are ready to make all the necessary investments yourself. Don’t expect any handouts, compensations, etc. Make a plan that utilizes the entire property; if your plan consists of maintaining a 2 acre garden plot, 2 horses and letting the rest of the acreage go to waste, you will not be considered. That being said, you can always rent pasture land to grazers, croppers, or other interested parties. You don’t have to do everything yourself!

And that’s all I wanted to add. Choosing a place to farm is a big decision and there are pros and cons to each location. While a single person flirting with bankcruptcy like me will have a hard time making ends meet here, I truly believe a well organized, dedicated group of individuals can really grow this farm into its full potential and make a happy, comfortable living here.

Happy planning,

David

This is a single weblog entry, posted on January 25th, 2017. Comment here »

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