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Fundraiser underway to build learning centre at O’Brien Farm in St. John’s

This architectural rendering shows the proposed design of a new learning centre at O’Brien Farm in Pippy Park.
This architectural rendering shows the proposed design of a new learning centre at O’Brien Farm in Pippy Park. - Computer screenshot

The historic O’Brien Farm in St. John’s has ambitious plans for the farm – and for farming in the province in general.

The O’Brien Farm Foundation is launching a fundraising campaign Thursday with a goal of raising $500,000 for the construction and programming of a new O’Brien Farm and Learning Centre to be built near the Thimble Cottage farmhouse, a registered heritage structure.

The start of the campaign is a chef’s hike Thursday afternoon at the farm hosted by Mark Critch, Allan Hawco and Sheila Williams.

“The Room to Grow campaign is about creating a space where people can learn about sustainable farming and gardening—both in theory and in practice,” said foundation chair Shannie Duff in a brochure for the capital campaign.

“By tapping into a network of community partners with a wide range of expertise, the O’Brien Farm and Learning Centre will be a place where people can share their skills and acquire new ones.”

The brochure highlights how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have gone from mostly growing and gathering their own food, to today having most of our food transported to the province.

Food First NL has said if our current food supply was cut short by harsh weather, for example, there’s only a two to three day supply of produce on grocery store shelves.

“As part of the proposed development, the O’Brien Farm Incubation Program will provide training and farm plots to new farmers and agritourism operators, supporting a new generation of farmers,” reads the campaign brochure.

The new learning centre has a proposed modern design that reflects the shape of the cottage.

The goal is that it will be a space for workshops, classes, meetings, entertainment and rentals.

The O’Brien Farm is a 30-acre property in Pippy Park. It’s leased to the O’Brien Farm Foundation from the provincial government under a fifteen-year renewable lease agreement for the purpose of maintaining the farming heritage and objectives of its former owners, who operated it as a family agriculture enterprise for approximately 185 years.

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