Wednesday, 29 March 2017 08:00

Community greenhouse in the works for Fort Macleod

Written by  Stephanie Labbe
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For the past three years, community members of Fort Macleod have been making plans to build a community greenhouse.

Members of a not-for-profit group, the Fort Macleod Community Aquaponic Greenhouse, have been working together on the plans for the greenhouse.
“We intend on building a passive solar aquaponic greenhouse and operating as close as we can to ‘net zero’ in terms of energy consumption,” says Linda Gonnet, treasurer for the group.
“We will incorporate solar energy, rain water recapture and significant water conservation, through aquaponic growing methods, to grow a significant amount of produce year round at the same time, minimizing our carbon footprint.”
Gonnet explains the plan would be to provide the produce first to their schools’ food service programs, second to their community support programs such as Kid’s First Family Centre and third to the community at large.
“The intention is to build capacity within our community, enhance our sense of self sufficiency and at the same time develop practices that reduce our carbon footprint in our daily lives.”
Gonnet says a spin-off of the greenhouse is they will create an alternative-learning venue.
This will give the younger generation in Fort Macleod the opportunities to develop job skills through work experience, Green Certificate, culinary arts instruction and a new curricular stream that develops operational greenhouse skills and culinary arts instruction.
Students of all ages will also have daily opportunities to plant, harvest and prepare fresh produce.
“We are important, because moving into the next decade, the need to keep rural communities vital is essential. In order to minimize rural drift into cities, we need to be innovative in the resources our communities provide to our citizens,” adds Gonnet.
This project will have the potential to provide training to young people in job-related skills that may keep them closer to home.
Gonnet says they also have the potential to demonstrate self-sufficiency.
“It also demonstrates that the practice of sustainable environmental strategies such as alternative energy sources is viable, that we can be productive and still live with a lower carbon demand. We are also working hard to collaborate, an essential skill going forward when resources for rural communities are stretched,” she says.
They have team members from Livingstone Range School Division, the Town of Fort Macleod, the Municipality of Willow Creek and a young man representing youth interests.
Gonnet says they hope they do this project right and that in time, they could be seen as a prototype for other communities as they deal with keeping vital, innovative and sustainable.
The not-for-profit group members are working hard with accessing public funding for the build of the greenhouse.
“The biggest plans for 2017 is to access funding, firm up our plan for the facility we wish to build, and to steadily move forward to our target date of September 2018.”
Gonnet loves being a part of this group and this project, because it requires thinking outside the box in order to anticipate what may happen in the next decade.
“This project is about the future, what lives our children and grandchildren will live, what our community will look like and how living in rural Alberta can continue to be enriching,” she adds.
For up-to-date information on this project, visit the group’s Facebook page at:: FortMacleodCommunityAquaponics Greenhouse/about/.

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