The Penticton Urban Agricultural Association is one step closer to getting an urban agricultural centre built at the old Nanaimo Hall site on Ellis Street.
Penticton council voted unanimously last week to grant the association a temporary commercial-use permit to fix up the site and build the centre there. However, while doing so, many on council expressed concerns regarding the speed with which the plan was being implemented.
The group will meet with city officials to discuss ways in which the two can work together, along with the Downtown Penticton Association, to speed up the process.
Optimistic the meeting will go well, PUAA chair Eva Durance said expectations on how quickly the group could get the centre up and running were probably unrealistic.
Firstly, until the association receives charitable status — a designation Durance hopes to soon acquire with the help of the DPA — the group cannot raise the substantial funds it needs to build the centre.
PUAA also needs to get more volunteers signed up to help out, Durance continued.
And then there is the paving of the lot, something PUAA committed to do so the city could use it for paid parking. However, Durance said originally the plan was to use gravel and not asphalt, which is what the city has since piled up there for them to use.
“Gravel is much easier to spread and we probably could have done it by now, but the asphalt is a different kettle of fish,” she said.
PUAA has already constructed the first few teaching-garden beds on the site, with about 20 more coming, including ones designed for people with physical constraints. Come fall, Durance said the association hopes to start offering a number of short courses on topics such as gardening fundamentals, soil preparation, raising particular crops, mulching and harvesting.
“The broader aim of our organization is to educate people about the importance of local food production and food security,” she said. “The courses will be a way of teaching people of all ages, including children, what goes into growing your own food, whether in a backyard or even on a patio.”
“They will also be about giving people a little bit of a sense of empowerment so that they can actually produce some of their own food too.”
Durance said PUAA is also looking for people in the city with extra land so that they can match them up with people who don’t have any space to grow food. The group is also working on a similar list of farmers willing to lease agricultural land to younger farmers.
For additional information on PUAA or to join, email: email@example.com; visit its Facebook page; or visit its website at: www.puaa.wordpress.com.