Root and Regenerate Farms
As the climate crisis and food insecurity become more and more problematic, Alberta farmers are exploring resiliency and innovation to find solutions. Root and Regenerate Farms (R&R) is a Calgary-based urban farm that focuses on regenerative methods, which involve little-to-no tillage; improving soil fertility with organic matter like manure, mulches, compost and crop residue; animal grazing; and planting with biodiversity in mind to protect and enhance each crop. Regenerative farming also considers social justice when it comes to farm workers and the environmental and economic impact (and opportunities) on the larger food system.
Founded by Dennis Scanland and his two sons in 2015, R&R (originally called Dirtboys) is one of the longest-running urban farms in Calgary. In 2019, the current owner, ecologist and farming enthusiast Michael Gavin, took over and Scanland transitioned to his new business, SunnyCider.
Under Gavin’s direction, R&R aims to disrupt the farming industry by creating a more resilient, locally sourced food system. “I worked for a few years doing studies with universities and consulting companies on the impacts of (large scale industrial) agriculture on native pollinator species,” he says. “I saw many of the damaging techniques used in agriculture and the consequences it had on our environment. So, I decided to try farming for a summer and things just went from there.”
R&R is spread out among nine plots throughout Calgary following regenerative farming guidelines including a “no-dig” practice that is about minimally disrupting the soil.
“We do a number of other things to try and improve the diversity and health of the ecosystem…such as diverse plantings, wildflowers and creating homes for insects and birds.” says Gavin. “We are also organic (though not certified). The only things we add to our soil are compost, mulches, worm castings and the occasional bit of calcium supplement. We don’t use any insecticides or fungicides as we are trying to promote both of those in our plots.”
The long-term vision is a non-profit organization that helps with food security in Calgary. “I would love to be able to have my farm be a not-for-profit farm in the next five-10 years,” says Gavin. “Growing for profit limits the amount of food I generally grow (to avoid) a loss. That, for me, is a huge shame as there are people in our city struggling to get food, let alone good high-quality produce. If there was a way to do that sustainably, I’d love to do it.”
In the meantime, R&R offers weekly Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes throughout the summer. This weekly box of fresh produce grown right here in Calgary not only creates revenue for R&R, but also provides Calgarians with a low-carbon-footprint option for nutrient-dense produce. Sign up on the R&R website. Quantities are limited.
Interested in getting involved? Anyone can donate land (back-yards or green space near a business) to be converted into mini farms. Gavin currently farms 10 donated plots including one rooftop.
Check out rootandregeneratefarm.ca for more information.