Imagine a village where orchards and greenhouses surround a community garden, where the young and old can connect with each other and to nature. It’s a self-sustaining area where local produce nourishes its people.
This is part of the vision for the village of Batawa and Patricia Ballamingie, a Carleton geography and environmental studies professor, knew she wanted to be involved in its revitalization as soon as she heard these plans.
“They were ideas that were ripe,” she explains. “I immediately expressed interest because I think food, community, culture, and urban agriculture are all a part of sustainability.”
Ballamingie shares this urban agricultural goal with Sonja Bata, who is taking the first steps to make Batawa a self-sustaining green village.
A community garden has already been set up in an ideal location in Batawa, behind Sacred Heart elementary school and close to the ski hill. Carleton architecture and industrial design students have also envisioned greenhouses that could be constructed as part of Batawa’s future.
Local stakeholders like the Quinte West Beekeepers Association, have also shared a strong interest, says Ballamingie. The association plans to set up a co-operative bee yard near Mrs. Bata’s home.
“You can create a nice little ecosystem in which those bees could forage, that wouldn’t be cross-contaminated with pesticide residue,” she explains.
Ballamingie believes it’s also important to set up ways to distribute
the community’s goods through a local food marketplace, celebratory events in Batawa, and Sunday brunches.
“I see Batawa as a living laboratory,” Ballamingie adds. “When we create an agricultural strategy, we’ll figure out what’s feasible and possible in a local context.”
Ballamingie will take the lead in developing the urban agricultural strategy, but she wants to involve graduate students from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies so they can research and determine the best way to create a vibrant, community-based food system in Batawa.
“These students focus on issues related to sustainable community, so it would be a great opportunity for them to apply their knowledge,” she says.
Since there are travel costs, graduate stipends and research allowance for graduate students, the municipality of Quinte West applied for funding from the Eastern Ontario Development Program so that Ballamingie and her team can start work in Batawa this summer. While they weren’t successful in getting that funding, Ballamingie is still optimistic.
“We plan to apply for funding from other programs, and I feel sure we will eventually succeed,” she says.
Having a self-sustaining green village is important, especially in the middle of a local economic decline, and during a time of climate change and biodiversity loss, she says.
“It’s a pretty unique opportunity,” says Ballamingie. “We have Mrs. Bata as a champion who has this wonderful vision of what the town could be. There’s also the expertise of Carleton. All in all it’s a really exciting opportunity.”