Banff greenhouses not meeting demand for gardening space

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The Banff Greenhouse & Gardening Society is hoping to grow the number of greenhouses in the community – and has planted the seed with Banff’s politicians that it intends to ask for capital dollars at budget time to help fund a third greenhouse.

At a council meeting Monday (June 13), officials with the society said there is a growing trend for greenhouses across the country, as people garden together and enjoy the healthy foods that come out of greenhouses.

“With each year, the interest in the community for plots in the greenhouses increases,” said Bob Lutz, head of the society, noting the existing two greenhouses do not meet the demand of avid gardeners for plot space.

“The other reason we feel this trend is going to continue is that in Banff we’re quite regularly looking at higher density housing, which means fewer yards and possibly fewer balconies that might be used for gardens.”

Banff currently has two greenhouses, one at the recreation grounds, constructed in 2011 with 34 beds, and the other built in 2013 on the Cascade Plaza’s rooftop parkade with 20 gardening beds.

The society has developed a program with Grade 1 students at Banff Elementary School at the Cascade Plaza greenhouse, which provides kids with their own, specifically designed plot to plant and maintain as a group.

Since 2011, there have always been more interested gardeners than plots available, leading to a lottery system. Even the addition of the second greenhouse could not meet the community’s demand for plot space.

Lutz said the greenhouse society had to decline 44 applications this year, noting there is seldom a wait list because once someone has a plot it’s unlikely they’ll give it up unless they move out of town.

“We’re still declining a full greenhouse worth of applicants each year,” he said.

“At the Rec Grounds, we typically see an average of about three people sharing a plot – some singles, couples, families of four, so we’re actually looking at about 100 users in that greenhouse on a regular basis.”

Lutz said the gardening society recently formed a 15-person sub-committee to look at fundraising options for the third greenhouse, including trying to access grants.

“But fundraising is a challenge,” he said. “When we’re looking for support for a third community greenhouse, donors are looking for new and exciting things that are going to get as much recognition for their name as possible.”

Mayor Karen Sorensen said there is currently no money allocated in the capital budget for a third greenhouse, but there is space dedicated for another greenhouse as part of the redevelopment of the Rec Grounds.

“Understanding you are facing some challenges in terms of grant funding, if you’re asking what makes decisions easier for council, it’s when there’s some other funding,” she said. “I’m suggesting that can often be a deciding factor.”

The original greenhouse at the recreation grounds cost about $80,000.

“Construction costs have increased there, but the good news is we know what works now,” said Lutz.

Banff’s recreation master plan showed there was 82 per cent support for the existing greenhouse at the Rec Grounds and 64 per cent support for an additional greenhouse at that location.

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