Transition Ottawa

Building Community Resilience Through Action

Every time I go by or through the Central Experimental Farm (CEF), I am
always struck by the fact that this is an enormous and potentially
hugely valuable resource that, to my mind at least, is largely
underused. It is also unique to Ottawa and, put to good use in the
service of sustainable food practices, could go a long, long way
towards helping achieving food self-sufficiency for this city.  I've
spoken once or twice to the Just Food folks, but it was only in passing
and I know they have a lot on their plate (no pun intended!).

It may be an extremely useful thought experiment to map out some
potential pilot projects and alternate uses for parts of the
Experimental Farm land. Any such endeavours would, of course, require
extensive negotiations and agreements with Agriculture Canada, but,
from a brief perusal of the Central Experimental Farm mission and its most recent management plan, it seems clear to me that carefully conceived projects could fit well within the purview of the CEF
mission. (See relevant excerpts below). Throughout its history, the research projects undertaken at the CEF have changed, and it is  conceivable that a number of projects related to food sustainability or local sourcing could be contemplated, under the "experimental" umbrella. Here is the beginnings of a back-of the-envelope list of some possible pathways:
  • small-plot organic farming pilots,
  • the research and development of vegetable and fruit strains particularly suited to the Ottawa climate and environment and to urban
  • community gardens
The Central Experimental Farm Mission

A brief perusal of the CEF mission and its most recent management plan
seems (to me at least) to open the possibility for experimental pilots
such as the above.

Here are some relevant passages from the CEF's most recent management
plan (blue emphasis mine):


"Specific Management Plan objectives:

  • To strengthen the research identity of the Farm, as the most important path of continuity between its past, present and future
  • To develop appropriate governance models, that recognize this identity and
    enhance its relationship to the site
  • To provide clear rules of engagement for other agencies and partners
  • To ensure the commemorative and ecological integrity of the cultural
    landscape and its cultural and natural resources
  • To interpret and present the site to the public, as a scientific landscape
    of national significance
  • To develop appropriate patterns of access, circulation, and open space
  • To establish clear and sustainable relationships with the adjacent urban context.
. . . .

After consideration of other options, including a Multiple Identities Option,
a Museum-without-Walls Option, and a Public Park Option. The client and the consulting team recommended that the AAFC pursue the Research Option as the strategic direction for the Central Experimental Farm. The Research Option will meet the Plan's
vision and objectives, it is most closely tied to AAFC's mandate, and
it preserves the research function of the site for future generations. The
subject matter of agricultural research will change in unpredictable
ways over the next century, but the CEF framework will remain flexible
and adaptable to varying research initiatives as it has since its
The Research Option is also consistent with the
intention to conserve the integrity of the cultural landscape because
it reinvigorates the agricultural activities associated with the site
since its inception - research, public education and outreach, and
demonstration of best practices."

Relevant page is here:

The CEF has a system of 'partners' in their research programs. Perhaps
an outfit such as Just Food  or some other group could become a 'CEF
partner' in order to plan and undertake initiatives and projects. Perhaps a Transition Ottawa team would like to make this a project to develop further the possibilities.

Views: 100

Replies to This Discussion

Great idea, JD.
I'd like to see experiments in season extension - now that would be really useful in Canada! They could test out various greenhouses - hoop, glass, double and single layer, at different heights, with and without heat sinks inside, and see how late in the season you can keep growing, and how early in the season growing can start.

Other experiments could include cross breeding nut and fruit trees to create plants that are more resilient to our winters, and investigating the relative nutritional value of organic produce vs pesticide sprayed. They could also look at the decrease in nutritional value per day since being picked. This could provide strong evidence for the nutritional value of growing more organic food on local land, like the experimental farm, and eating it as soon as possible. Hmmm, I like the sound of this experiment.
A great idea to further utilize the most obvious urban farm in the city. It would be great to work on the making stronger ties to the surrounding urban context. Seems like there could be further public outreach/educational activities that make use of all the expertise that is already available there.
We might run into a few extra hurdles with this since it's a federally run project but I still think this is something worth trying.

Personally I'd love to see them do some long term trials of creating Permaculture food forests. A while back ago I found this study by RAND about Perennial Polyculture which might be of use to pitch the idea.


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