A growing number of communities are embracing urban agriculture and enjoying the social, economic and environmental benefits of such activities. Many people are interested in local food and urban agriculture as it allows them to have more control over what they eat, know where their food comes from, and even enhance their self-sufficiency. There are many options for integrating local food and urban agriculture into the Airdrie community.
Urban agriculture is the practise of producing a range of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, and grains, in urban areas that have not traditionally been used to do so. Urban agriculture activities differ from rural agriculture in terms of scale and intensity of the activities.
As part of the City’s ongoing effort and commitment to identify and explore initiatives that will move Airdrie toward a more healthy and sustainable community, the City is currently undertaking the following initiatives under the urban agriculture project.
Bee City Designation
On November 5, 2018, City Council approved a resolution designating the City of Airdrie a Bee City. This will enable staff to file application with Bee City Canada and become officially designated as a Bee City Canada community. We will be looking for six representatives from the community with knowledge and expertise in pollinator habitat and education initiatives to participate in an ongoing working group created to support this initiative. Recruitment for community representatives will commence once we have received the Bee City Canada Designation.
Starting April 2018, 20 urban residential properties will be allowed to have hens over a period of 18 months. The pilot project will allow the City the opportunity to observe the backyard hens setups and gather public feedback. The results will assist Council in determining the future of backyard hens in the City of Airdrie.
In early 2018, an online survey was launched to gauge public support for various urban bees initiatives, including urban beekeeping. The 12-question online questionnaire ran from January 17 – February 6, 2018 and had a total of 412 respondents. Overall, the questionnaire results indicated strong support for urban beekeeping in Airdrie. The key findings included:
The majority of respondents:
- believe urban beekeeping will be beneficial to the city (86%)
- support urban beekeeping on residential properties in the city (83%)
- indicated that they would like to learn more about making our city pollinator and bee friendly (74%)
- support their neighbour having honey bee hives on their residential property (80%)
- support honeybees in public and on City-owned spaces (78%)
Approximately half of the respondents indicated they were interested in having honeybee hives on their residential property (49%).
Building on the high level of community support identified through the results of the questionnaire the City launched a two phased Urban Beekeeping Pilot Projects (UBPP). Phase one of the UBPP consisted of an urban beekeeping pilot project on City-owned lands in 2018. Phase two will see urban beekeeping on private properties in 2019.
If you have any questions about the Airdrie Urban Agriculture Pilot Project, please call the Planning & Sustainability Department at 403.948.8848.
Here are some urban agriculture and local food activities that are already established and supported by the Airdrie community:
- A community orchard located at the Plainsmen Arena - has an edible landscape including various fruit trees and bushes that is available for the public to pick. The community orchard is maintained by both residents and the Parks Department.
- Airdrie Farmers Market: A great place to buy products from various local farmers, food producers and artisan vendors.
- Airdrie Horticulture Society Community Garden: If you are not able to grow your own vegetables at home, joining a community garden is an excellent way for you to benefit from locally grown food.
Airdrie Food Bank provides food support to those in need and has a Plant a Row Grow a Row program, where residents can share some produce from their home gardens with the Food Bank.
On June 2, 2014, Council approved the Airdrie urban agriculture pilot project to include a community orchard initiative and a backyard hens pilot project. It was decided that urban beekeeping would be deferred for two years (2016) to allow staff to focus on implementation and evaluation of the orchard and hens pilot initiatives.
Due to resourcing issues there were delays in implementing the backyard pilot project. In the fall of 2017 the City allocated resources to proceed with the backyard hens pilot project and to engage the public on the urban bees.
Public consultation on urban agriculture to date has included an online survey, in person feedback at the Home & Lifestyle show, Farmers Market and Genesis Place in 2013, as well as emails and phone calls into the Planning Department.
Online survey (ran from July 11 to August 1, 2013): 141 citizens responded to the survey and provided their input on urban agriculture activities in both public spaces and on private property. In general, citizens indicated their high levels of support for urban agriculture initiatives on public lands and City-owned spaces, and lower levels of support for initiatives occurring in backyards.
Citizens indicated the following levels of support for initiatives on public and municipal lands:
- Roof top gardens: 88.6% in favour
- Beehives on public lands: 57.9% in favour
- Edible landscaping: 85% in favour
- Community gardens: 94.3% in favour
Citizens indicated the following levels of support for private/backyard initiatives:
- Backyard hens: 57.1% in favour
- Backyard bees: 50.7% in favour
- Front yard edible gardens: 81.6% in favour
The predominant concerns mentioned by citizens with regard to public land and City initiatives included ongoing maintenance and vandalism. Citizen concerns regarding private property/backyard initiatives included allergies to bees and concerns about noise and odours associated with backyard chickens.
Check out these various urban agriculture and local food resources:
- The Calgary and District Beekeepers Association has many resources and information on beekeeping. They also have guidelines for safe urban beekeeping.
Egg Farmers of Alberta has a Top Ten List of Chores for people raising backyard hens.
- City of Calgary has Community Orchards Research Project in which they are testing various fruit and nut trees and shrubs to see what will grow in the local climate.
- Access to Food in Alberta - Local food Map is an on-line resource of organization and groups in Alberta that provides links and information to food related learning opportunities opportunities, programs, initiatives and resources in your community.
- Alberta Agriculture has a seasonal fresh food guide showing when various local foods are at their peak availability.
- Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association has an online map that lists u-pick and farm gate sales.
- Beekeeping pilot project the latest buzz in Airdrie - Calgary Herald (pdf)
- Urban Agriculture Pilot Project Overview_Council June 2014 (pdf)
- Citizen response to Urban Agriculture_Council Report Feb 2014 (pdf)
- Urban Agriculture Council Report March 2013 (pdf)
- AirdrieONE Sustainability Plan (pdf)
- What is Sustainability (pdf)