Within the Ignatius Jesuit Centre lies the Ignatius Farm, an agriculture-focused space just outside of Guelph that works to provide fresh produce for members of the community, while allowing others to have access to farmland they can tend themselves.
The farm was founded in 1913 by members of the Jesuit community. In the past 20 years, the farm has transformed into an opportunity for residents in the area to gain access to fresh, locally grown produce through its Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program.
Farm manager Heather Lekx has been a part of the CSA for the last 20 years. Lekx started as a farmer for the CSA program and began working at the farm as they were switching to organic production. She said the CSA allows around 250 families in the community to access fully-certified organic produce.
“People purchase a share in advance of the growing season for a segment of the harvest, and then they come to the farm or one of our neighbourhood drop sites once a week and get their fresh food,” said Lekx. “They get to enjoy organic produce that’s super fresh, and generally have much better quality than you would get in a grocery store because it's so, so fresh.”
In addition to the CSA program, Ignatius Farm also donates food to local charities, and offers courses and internships along with land-leasing for small agricultural businesses.
“What I would say as a farmer that actually doesn't own her own farmland and knows how difficult it is to be able to access farmland if you don't inherit it,” Lekx said. “Is that this is a very special gift that we can provide to the communities to make space for small plot agriculture farmers.”
Lekx said the programs Ignatius Farm offers relate to providing food security because it allows people to realize they can get higher-quality, more economical food they can produce themselves instead of relying on the food supply chain.
“I think without us actively having a connection to land, our food security is completely dependent on the other people,” Lekx said. “Getting good quality food is expensive and feels expensive - even though in the grand scheme of things, it's not expensive compared to what it took to get it [to you].”
“So for everybody to have access to a way to grow some excellent quality food is a real gift.”
Through various funding initiatives Ignatius Farm has been able to take on new projects. The farm received $25,000 from The Farm Credit Canada AgriSpirit Fund to help dig a new water well. However, the farm is calling on the community to aid in raising an additional $20,000 to help install infrastructure to support their well and continue providing the community with local produce.
“We’re asking very specifically for support so that we can actually finish the job and create more space for small businesses and community gardeners,” Lekx said. “It’s a very exciting to be just on the cusp of creating those spaces and the necessary water access at a time when the demand is really there.”
Lekx is excited to see what the future holds for Ignatius Farm and takes pride in the farm’s ability to have been able to provide produce to community members and agricultural space for entrepreneurs over the past 20 years.
“There are so many beautiful synergies when we can work within a vicinity and work alongside each other and work together,” Lekx said. “There's so many different organisations and little businesses that find their home here and it’s such a privilege to be able to work with them and collaborate with them.”