By Justin Schellenberg, October 12 2018 —
Calgary’s largest urban farm is facing eviction to make room for the city’s ring road expansion. But according to the group’s director, the displacement isn’t necessary.
Grow Calgary, which claims to be the largest community farm in Canada, has been growing crops beside the Trans Canada Highway near Canada Olympic Park for six years. It was recently given an eviction notice by the Government of Alberta requiring it to vacate no later than Dec. 31, 2018.
“This is a really crippling blow to us,” said Grow Calgary executive director Paul Hughes.
The not-for-profit farm works with more than 50 social agencies in the city, including the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, providing fresh produce for those in need.
Hughes said the farm has provided over 300,000 meals worth of food to these groups over the last six years.
According to Hughes, only a small part of the land used by Grow Calgary is needed for construction plans and they have already cleared out of most of that space.
“They have asked us to get off the transportation utility corridor land that they need to build the road,” Hughes said. “We said, ‘Okay, have it, build your road.’ They haven’t been able to demonstrate why they need the extra space.”
Despite Grow Calgary’s efforts to clear the way, the provincial government is still requiring their eviction, though they have said they are working to help the farm relocate.
“Alberta Infrastructure appreciates Grow Calgary’s urban farming activities and is working to identify a new location and support the moving of their operation,” read a statement attributed to Alberta’s deputy minister of infrastructure Shannon Flint.
Hughes said the government has not been forthcoming with information on possible new locations.
“The province has offered a spot but they can’t tell us if there is any electricity there [or] any water there,” Hughes said. “They have not offered to help at all with getting us back on our feet.”
Hughes has been aware of the possibility of eviction for many years, saying he attempted to initiate a stakeholder engagement process with the government four years ago.
“They refused 20 formal requests,” Hughes said. “We have tried to engage for many, many years — we’ve tried to invite them out, we’ve tried to talk to them. It’s really tough to get any answers out of them.”
Grow Calgary has worked with the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business as well as the Hunter Hub to produce a plan for their expansion.
Hughes said the plan, which calls for unused land in the city to be turned into sustainable farm land, has also been ignored by the city.
According to Hughes, the next move for Grow Calgary will be to try and get the courts involved.
“We’re looking at getting an injunction — just to get in front of a judge and get all of this on the table,” Hughes said. “We feel like we have a responsibility to all the volunteers and everyone who has been working here to make sure we survive and thrive.”