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Fort Macleod council supports plans to build greenhouse


Fort Macleod town council last week put its support behind plans to build a 2,000 sq. ft. aquaponic passive solar greenhouse in Fort Macleod.
The greenhouse would be used to educate children, support food sustainability and create jobs in town.
“At this point, what we really need from you is a letter of support,” Linda Gonnet told council.
Gonnet and Susan Glover appeared as a delegation at the Sept. 26 council meeting at Fort Macleod RCMP Centennial Library.
Gonnet, Glover, Ronda Reach, Murray Armstrong, Heidi Genesis, Bill Lichtenberger and Rob Charchun, are part of the non-profit organization promoting the greenhouse in Fort Macleod.
Gonnet told council the idea of a community greenhouse is a citizen’s initiative that grew out of numerous discussions about the community development, including food security.
“There was a growing awareness of a need for health and wellness in our community,” Gonnet said.
The concept of a community greenhouse developed over about a year, through the Unstoppable Conversations project, a session hosted by Fort Macleod Food Matters, and discussions with local officials and greenhouse experts.
At four community events the committee polled Fort Macleod residents, with more than 98 per cent supporting a community greenhouse.
Surveys done at F.P. Walshe school revealed 76 per cent of students are interested in working at a greenhouse, and 73 per cent would like a salad bar as part of the school concession.
The idea developed to build a greenhouse that would use alternative energy sources and conserve water, and would be sustainable.
An aquaponic greenhouse would use 90 per cent less water than conventional growing, and crops develop one-third faster.
Tilapia fish are an integral part of the aquaponic system, providing the nutrients.
The plant roots extend into the water, with the fish waste becoming nutrient-rich food for the plants.
The plants clean the water for the fish in a delicate balance.
No chemicals or fertilizers would be used in the greenhouse.
Plants develop quicker in an aquaponic system because they expend energy growing, rather than in developing a root system.
Aquaponic systems use less water than traditional gardens, since there is little to no evaporation.
The greenhouse would use solar panels, solar heat retention and re-capture, as well as rain water re-capture technology.
The greenhouse would provide educational opportunities, including high school work experience, for students in Fort Macleod.
The community would be available to use the greenhouse in a variety of ways, including workshops.
“We also want it to be a gathering space with an environmental focus,” Gonnet told council.
A full-time technician and possibly a part-time education co-ordinator would be hired for the greenhouse.
A plan is still being developed, but construction of the greenhouse is estimated at $200,000.
The sale of some produce would fund ongoing operation of the greenhouse.
“I think it sounds cool,” Coun. Mike Collar said. “I would be behind a letter of support.”

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