Deep Roots Food Hub - theHumm March 2020
Deep Roots Food Hub - theHumm March 2020
By David Hinks
Carp-area physician Dr. Barry Bruce is a tireless advocate for local food production and healthy living. At the recent Seedy Saturday event in Almonte he engaged passersby at the very professional display promoting the Deep Roots Food Hub and their newly constructed vegetable storage facility near Shirley’s Bay in west Ottawa.
Dr. Bruce is passionate in his criticism of our modern food industry. For example, he points out how we grow healthy oats here, export them to a processing factory and then import them back here as a highly processed breakfast cereal. Above all he believes that proper nutrition is a prime determinant of health, and wants to improve the food system through educational programs and by linking production, storage and distribution within local communities.
Dr. Bruce had a very distinguished career that included a major role in the establishment of the Carp Medical Clinic and a six-year stint as the Chief of Staff of the Queensway-Carleton Hospital. He is certainly not prepared to rest on his laurels. Dr. Bruce walks the talk! He, along with many other volunteers, has spent hundreds of hours constructing the new vegetable storage facility.
The root “cellar” has been formed by using a common steel industrial building structure — basically an above-ground Quonset hut. To achieve conditions needed for root crop storage, an eight-inch layer of fireproof and waterproof foam insulation was sprayed onto the inside of the steel walls. The root cellar is off-grid, is solar powered, and uses microcomputers to remotely monitor temperature and humidity conditions and to control fans and dampers for air movement. The design provides more accurate control of temperature and humidity than is possible in a traditional root cellar — testing to date shows that this will result in vegetables that will last longer and be of higher quality. The food storage chamber is about 600 square feet, which is will store up to 60,000 pounds of produce. Storage of root crops and other vegetables seems pretty simple; that is, until you start examining the needs of particular vegetables. For example, carrots, beets and parsnips prefer 2–5°C with a relative humidity of 90–95%; potatoes and apples like the same temperature but a lower relative humidity of 80–90%; onions and garlic like the same temperature but 60–70% humidity; squash and pumpkin like the 60–70% humidity but prefer warmer temperatures of 10–15°C. The Deep Roots facility is currently being tested with rutabagas and carrots — after three-and-a-half months there appear to be no signs of deterioration.
The Deep Roots Food Hub is a grassroots non-profit organization, created in 2016, with an objective of creating a secure, sustainable food system in West Carleton. Board Chair Judi Varga-Toth states that “the Deep Roots Food Hub was created to revitalize our local food economy”.
West Carleton has been declared a “food desert” — food insecurity is higher than other areas because there are no major fresh food retailers within West Carleton. Deep Roots aims to empower West Carleton residents to grow, store, distribute, prepare and preserve healthy food.
The group received a huge boost in 2016 when it was awarded a $125,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa. Additional funding was received in 2017 — $48,500 from Ontario’s Greenbelt Fund and $25,000 from the City of Ottawa.
Deep Roots Food Hub is focussing on three main activities. The first is the creation of the community root cellar where local small-scale farmers can secure space to store their crops. The second is making more locally grown healthy food available through West Carleton retail stores and restaurants, and through the expansion of the Good Food Box, a non-profit program that offers affordably priced fruits and vegetables. Thirdly, they are holding workshops on topics such as cooking, nutrition, food gardening, canning and preserving, and home root cellaring.
Go to deeprootsfoodhub.ca for more on the group’s history and current activities, or visit their Facebook page.
The food hub concept has been established in the U.S. for decades but has only recently taken root in Canada. Food hubs help small farmers with access to appropriately sized distribution and processing infrastructure (abattoirs, processing facilities, small-scale trucking) that allow them access to larger markets. They provide small farmers a means of entry into markets they would otherwise have great difficulty accessing. Each food hub is unique, as it responds to the producers and needs specific to its region. In general, all food hubs strive to promote production growth, support farmers, make local food accessible to larger markets and stimulate economic growth.
We are very fortunate to have another Food Hub in our area. The Two Rivers Food Hub is located in the Gallipeau Centre in Smiths Falls. It is a not-for-profit social enterprise with a mandate to support the small- and medium-sized farm community around the two rivers that run through Lanark and Leeds-Grenville Counties. Find out more about them at tworiversfoodhub.com .
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