Regina meals financial institution greenhouse fills cabinets with garden-fresh items

The tastes and smells of garden fresh food is bringing light to the winter, as the Regina food bank plows onwards with its year-round greenhouse project.

From the light crunch of lettuce to the earthy flavours of sweet basil, the food bank’s greenhouse is not only producing fresh food, but also putting people back in touch with where their food comes from, community greenhouse co-ordinator Kimberley Wenger told CBC’s Saskatchewan Weekend.

“Growing our own food as a food bank is a really good way to look at what we do on a bigger scale and provide not only fresh food but also education to the clients and community about where food comes from, what it looks like, what it smells like, what it tastes like,” she said.

Ultra efficient technology

The greenhouse launched its Four Seasons Urban Agriculture Project earlier this year, using garden towers. The technology is ultra efficient, featuring multiple towers that are similar to barrels, each with 72 pockets from which food can be grown.

The centre of each tower is filled with compost which is produced by red wriggler worms, who live in bins at the greenhouse. These worms are fed waste the food bank won’t be using, with the worms converting 31 kilograms of inputs each week into fertilizer. This fertilizer in turn is fed back into the garden towers as nutrients for the plants.

“It’s vertical gardening and indoor growing. Controlled environments are definitely a popular thing right now,” said Wenger.

Wanting to share community asset

Outreach is also a major part of the greenhouse project, she explained. In the launch of this outreach program, students from five schools learned all about the garden tower, with the food bank delivering students with their own garden towers and all the materials they would need to grow food in their own classrooms through the year.

“We have a lot of interest from people that want to extend their season. There’s so many opportunities with this place. It’s really an asset to our community and we want to be able to share that.”

For herself, Wenger said she’s learned a lot about gardening since getting involved in the greenhouse project.

“It’s been a very transformative process for me,” she said. “I never really grew up around gardening and so a lot of this information was new but it was just about being optimistic and tackling a challenge. And that’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing.”

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