The City of Kingston is growing more than just flowers this winter at its greenhouse on Norman Rogers Drive.
On Wednesday, the city will harvest its first batch of lettuce to help those in need. For decades, Kingstonians have enjoyed an early taste of spring at the greenhouse — a sneak peek of warmer things to come, Mother Nature at her colourful finest.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has meant no public tours, at least not this year.
“You’ve been doing it for so many years that it really does seem like something is missing from your winter and I’m sure it’s that way for a lot of people,” says Karen Schinners, a horticulturist with the city.
“Hopefully next year; fingers crossed. I’m sure (there are) a lot of people itching to come back and we’re hoping to be able to do that.”
In the meantime, the growing continues and it’s not just plants and flowers. According to Schinners, the greenhouse is now growing leaf lettuce.
“We’re doing it because we didn’t run the open houses this year so we are not set up for display, which means we had some extra room in the greenhouse so we thought we would do something good with the room,” Schinners says.
There are 200 lettuce plants going to Loving Spoonful, a Kingston non-profit that provides access to fresh food. Ayla Fenton is the urban agriculture organizer with Loving Spoonful.
“In late winter, early spring is the time when there’s the least local produce available so we were really excited to hear that the city was interested in growing some greens for us,” says Ayla Fenton, urban agriculture organizer with Loving Spoonful.
The lettuce will be harvested on Wednesday before being distributed, and Fenton says the need is there.
“COVID-19 really highlighted some of the vulnerabilities in our food system,” Fenton says. “It certainly increased the demand on our fresh food access programs and the demands that meal providers are experiencing in Kingston.
“I do expect that food insecurity is up because of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Both Schinners and Fenton agree that initiatives like this one will certainly make a difference.
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