Agricultural centre finds room to grow

It takes time to grow something good, whether that’s a single plant or an urban agriculture education centre.

Volunteers Whitney Hamm and Valentine Young paint part of the fence surrounding the Penticton Urban Agriculture site off Ellis Avenue.

Volunteers Whitney Hamm and Valentine Young paint part of the fence surrounding the Penticton Urban Agriculture site off Ellis Avenue.

It takes time to grow something good, whether that’s a single plant or an urban agriculture education centre.

According to Eva Durance of the Penticton Urban Agriculture Association, the group’s site at Ellis and Nanaimo in downtown Penticton is well on the way to being the education centre they have dreamed about.

After two years of setbacks in finding an appropriate spot for their centre, PUAA was finally granted use of the former Nanaimo Hall site this spring, with a commercial-use permit granted in June so they could get to work on preparing the site.

The initial goal, according to Durance, is to provide education and instruction to anyone in the community who is interested in learning to grow their own food. Eventually, they plan to have demonstration gardens to be used for people to learn how to garden and compost, as well as demonstration greenhouses and a classroom building.

“I think people are realizing more and more that we have to produce more of our own food and need to support our farmers,” said Durance. “Living in the Okanagan, we are so lucky, there are so many places that can’t produce food to the extent we can here.”

Earlier this month, the site was busy with several church groups who had come down to help clean up the site, which has been in disuse for several years.

“This is giving us a huge boost to get the weeds off and we are putting in compost boxes,” said Durance, indicating the workers who were busy painting fences, pulling weeds and hammering together the compost boxes in one corner. They still need about 80 feet of chain link fencing to secure the site, but once that is done, Durance continued, they will be finished with the site work for this year, and will be concentrating on preparing to offer classes next year.

“We might have some in September, we haven’t quite figured that out. In late winter, early spring we will get a full slate of courses going and we will be doing more membership drives,” she said. They also plan to reconnect with all the groups that had expressed interest in helping, before the PUAA got sidetracked with the fight to find a home for the project.

They would also like to get started on the classroom building next year, said Julius Bloomfield, co-founder of the group.

“If we can get that building up, then we can do courses in any weather. The building will be the priority. Well first, right now, the fence is the priority. We’ve got to find the fencing,” he said, adding that they will also be adding a lot more garden boxes and beds for demonstration purposes.

Another PUAA goal they want to get going next year, said Durance, is putting people who want to garden or farm together with people who have land that they would be happy to have used or leased.

But the group still has one big hurdle to overcome, which is getting charitable status so they can fundraise the money needed to make their dream a reality.

“We haven’t got our charitable status yet, we’re keeping our fingers crossed it will come through this time. They turn down everyone the first time — I don’t know why it is even a question,” she said. “It’s a collaborative effort too, we are working with the DPA.”