Food security is top of mind during the COVID-19 pandemic for many organizations as they mount special efforts to produce affordable and nutritious food.
Everdale Farm decided to do its part to make fresh produce more accessible for community members affected most deeply by the pandemic.
For the non-profit charitable community farm, it is all about growing more food.
“Now with the pandemic, there are even more people who are insecure. In April, we knew we had to grow more food” says Gavin Dandy, executive director and founder at Everdale Farm.
“It all stems from the need to grow more food but it also supports local agencies including ‘The Seed’ food project with our partner, the Guelph Community Health Centre.”
Over 20,000 people in Guelph and Wellington County can’t afford enough fresh food according to ‘The Seed’.
“We also have rich and productive partnerships with many other agencies including East Wellington Community Services, the Daily Bread Food Bank and other regional food banks,” Dandy said.
Everdale Farm, in collaboration with its partners, developed the Good Food Project to increase fresh food access to low income community members.
“We grow food for these agencies and then they distribute healthy, nutritious boxes to those who need them.” Dandy says.
Since opening its farm gates in the Hillsburgh area in 2000, Everdale is now one of Canada’s most established and well-known farm-based local food hubs.
It is a working farm that produces not only food, but also promotes education.
Everdale’s mission is to be a teaching farm that provides hands-on, solution-based food and farming education and to engage local communities.
To accomplish this, it delivers a wide range of hands-on learning programs on food and farming to people of all ages and backgrounds as well as camps for kids in the summer months.
During the pandemic, the Harvest Share Program at the farm remains open.
Members can pre-register to receive a weekly share from the farm.
The share consists of a box of produce which members pick up from the farm or a delivery option is now also available.
The majority of the food comes from Everdale, however, other local farmers supplement the share, increasing the number of options available.
“Home share members come out regularly and choose from a wide selection of foods. They choose what they want and then pay for the volume they take,” Dandy says.
“Our members are huge supporters of our charitable work and we receive so much support from them. This is the main way we make money and that’s what helps us run and supports our partnerships with other organizations.”
But you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the benefits.
Everybody is encouraged to visit the farm or visit the farm website at for more information.
“Especially now, we are offering more options such as eggs and milk. We want to be that one-stop shop to give people peace of mind today more than ever, as they look for other shopping opportunities,” Dandy said.
“The community wants a safe and reliable way to get food and we now offer delivery and a home grocery buying club where food is accessible at wholesale prices.”
According to Everdale, when you participate in its programs and purchase food from the farm, you are not only safeguarding your health, especially in times of crisis, but you are also supporting the development of a healthier food-secure community.
There are about 75 Everdale-trained farmers on the farm producing fresh food and over 40,000 young people have learned food and farming skills.
“Much of our work is program related. People come to train and learn. But this year, it just wasn’t possible,” Dandy said.
“We knew we had to pivot rapidly, so we’ve redeployed staff and volunteers to help grow more food. We usually have so many volunteers but now not as many because of COVID-19 sadly, but in compensation, we are growing more food.”
During the pandemic, more people are growing their own food, either in their own backyard or in a community garden.
“It’s fascinating that people are realizing the importance of growing their own food. I think COVID-19 is horrible but it has stimulated a lot of innovation and activities. People are looking for solutions and it speaks to their creativity. It’s wonderful to see how people are responding,” Dandy says.
The Seed Project, with the Guelph Community Health Centre, is a valuable program. It continues to deliver food programs increasing access to healthy food for those in need in response to the pandemic.
“We’ve had local businesses donate and that’s been really helpful, but we could use more support to deliver these healthy boxes. We need more volunteers to help make deliveries,” Dandy said.
“We would like to deliver 4,000 boxes a week but right now we are only able to deliver 1,000 so we could really use more volunteers.”
Everdale Farm invites the community to visit the farm to walk and enjoy the forest trails and rolling hills anytime during daylight hours Monday-Saturday.
“For me to do what I know, I feel very fortunate to be working during this time,” Dandy says.
“We have had so much positive feedback and so many words of support. Everyone here feels lucky to be able to do something that has so much meaning for others.