Urban farming to improve nutrition, sense of community for Nanaimo seniors

By Spencer Sterritt
April 10, 2018 - 10:58pm

Fresh greens like kale are grown at Five Acre Farms, ready to be picked by seniors and their families.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Bettering the health of local seniors is the major goal of a new community project at a south Nanaimo farm.

The Nanaimo Men's Centre and the Growing Opportunities Farm Community Co-op are working together to help seniors experience the great outdoors at Five Acre Farm, across from Park Avenue Elementary.

“We all do better when we get outside and get some fresh air and our hands dirty,” Carmen Barclay with the Men's Centre told NanaimoNewsNOW.

Through the next year, anyone 55 years or older can help with ongoing projects such as prepping the land in the spring, recording all the plants in the summer and harvesting the crops in the fall.

“Seniors get to meet new people, have access to some clean, organic, healthy food and they'll know more about what's happening,” Barclay said.

Craig Evans with the Co-op said many seniors might have lost their green thumbs with old age and being part of a farming community helps remedy many issues they face.

“One of the major determinants of health in seniors is their social network, how wide it is and their daily nutritional regime,” Evans said. “This is one of the steps we need to take to make sure seniors have access to affordable food and are engaged in food production.”

Evans said he's heard roughly 60 per cent of seniors admitted to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital are considered malnourished.

“Food changes once you hit the retirement age. You perhaps don't require as many calories in a day, your activity level drops...you might not be interested in cooking large meals or even cooking for yourself. It's a huge issue.”

This is the most recent development at the busy urban farm, which is the lynchpin of Nanaimo Foodshare efforts for sustainable food and agricultural education.

For the past year, seniors have used the farm to hone their photography skills and create videos about their connection to food and nature. Their videos are being presented at the Bowen Park Auditorium on Tuesday, April 17 at 6:30 p.m.

Efforts are also still ongoing to raise enough money to buy the land outright and protect it from any future development.

“I think this could be a good demonstration site for an urban farm that engages the community into thinking about where their food comes from,” Evans said.

Anyone interested can attend open houses at Five Acre Farm on April 14, 21 and 28 at 10 a.m., rain or shine.


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