Reena received grants in 2021 to pilot outdoor farming, which was used to purchase 400 above-ground containers, place 200 containers at two different locations and grow herbs and vegetables. This initiative was called “Reena Community Farms” (RCF).
In 2022, the Reena Community Farm production models evolved:
- Eat What You Grow (Reena Intentional Community Apartment Model, Reena Group Home Residential Model, Neighbourhood Model, Reena Friends and Family Model)
- Sell What You Grow (Crestwood Megafarm, Future Battle Centre Hydroponic Container)
- Note: The hydroponic container will provide a year-round growing capability
2022 Food Distribution Models:
- Reena Group Homes participating in “Eat What You Grow” grow and eat their own food
- Reena Group Homes not participating would be able to pick up produce at the Reena Battle Centre
- Sales were expanded beyond Meals on Wheels to Restaurants
- Bartering with York Region Food Network continued
Supporting education: In conjunction with Centennial College, York Region Food Network, Niagara Region’s Small Scale Farms, Young Urban Farmers, The Growing Connection, Reena Learning & Development, Federal New Horizons for Seniors Program (2020), and Good Food Access Fund., three curricula are under development: growing, packaging and cooking.
- The Growing program will be especially beneficial to:
- staff and individuals who will be running new group home gardens
- neighbourhood groups as well as Reena Friends and Family
- The Packaging program will be available to those seeking employment
- The Cooking program will teach individuals how to incorporate fresh produce into their meals. Programs will be offered virtually, or in person at the Azrieli Training Hub at the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence, once public health Covid restrictions are lifted
Reena Community Farm suppliers:
- Boots Landscaping
- Purelife Soil,
- The Growing Connection,
- Young Urban Farmers,
- Angelo’s Garden Centre,
Neighbourhood model partners:
- Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation
- Temple Emanu-El
- City of Vaughan
- Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
- Agriculture Canada
- Local Food Infrastructure Fund
- Funding to – Good Food Access Fund
- Employment and Social Development Canada
- New Horizons for Seniors Program
- Azrieli Foundation
- Robbins Family Foundation
Reena Community Farms is one of three initiatives under the GReena banner, the other two being renewable energy initiatives and 3R initiatives which focus on waste reduction, recycling and reuse.
In 2021, the produce was distributed through three channels:
- Revenue: The Bernard Betel Centre purchased produce for use in their Kosher Meals on Wheels Program
- Distribution: Produce was harvested by the students and was transported to the Toby & Henry Battle Developmental Centre for packaging, and then distributed to Reena Group Homes and Apartment locations.
- Barter: Reena Community Farms developed a bartering partnership with York Region Food Network and sent excess produce to them to distribute to their clientele
Exciting upcoming plans for the 2022 harvesting season, including:
- Container gardens for individual residential locations. The remaining containers will be used to create gardens at Reena group homes.
- Mega-Farm (Crestwood): create a new above-ground container farm, modelled on the 2021 success of the RCR and Rockview farms.
- Intermodal hydroponic container: the 400 sq. ft. container will allow for 365-day operations. Reena is the first Canadian organization to modify the hydroponic container to allow for wheelchair accessibility.
Packaging, training and employment centre: with the arrival of the hydroponic container, our plan is to upgrade the Battle Centre greenhouse to create the centre. We are planning to partner with a local kosher food distributor to package his products in addition to ours. The goal is to create year-round employment opportunities
Through urban agriculture, GReena promotes food security and local food supply chains. Transforming urban spaces into nutritive vegetable gardens encourages accessibility to healthy, organic food (farm-to-table) by Reena individuals and the local community, contributing to better nutrition habits. #EatWhatYouGrow
Growing food crops contributes to healthy communities by engaging the GReena team in work and recreation, which improves individual and public well-being and promotes inclusivity.
Reena individuals participate via an educational art program in which they learn about various crops and how they’re grown with care.
GReena offers paid employment opportunities to Reena individuals with diverse disabilities, promoting inclusion, teamwork and engagement between Reena staff, individuals, and the community-at-large via partnerships. In July 2022, with assistance from the Canada Summer Jobs Program, Reena hired eight high school students with neuro-diverse challenges who were supervised by job coaches.
GReena promotes the production of food closer to the place of their consumption, therefore reducing its carbon footprint. GReena also encourages the limiting of food waste because communities become more aware of the energy put into growing food.
By greening urban spaces, GReena sequesters carbon at a small scale. However, it does much more for climate action by promoting a food supply model more sustainable in the long run, through shorter supply chains and more efficient use of resources and spaces.
GReena contributes to biodiversity through ecosystem services provided by a larger variety of plant species, procuring enriched habitats for other organisms.