By Riley Hill
Since leaving office, former Students’ Union vice-president operations and finance Scott Weir has been a busy man. He has a new business, Growing Gardeners: Calgary Urban Farms, which grows fresh food in the city in innovative ways.
Weir is a long-time gardener, but only took interest in urban farming in the last few years. Since then, he has created his business, GGCUF, and expanded it to multiple locations across the city.
“I have four different plots in the city,” said Weir. “One is in Dalhousie, that’s where my greenhouses are going up. The others are just off of 16th Avenue, one is in West Hillhurst and one is in Parkdale.”
What makes his farms unique is his use of aquaponics, a growing system that uses tanks of fish to fertilize the plants.
“Imagine a fishtank full of tilapia or trout — heck, it could even be goldfish if you’re not going to eat them,” said Weir. “The fish produce the waste by doing their daily thing. That waste gets cycled up to the plants, the plants take up those nutrients, clean the water, then it goes back down to the fish.”
This system uses the waste of the fish to keep the plants growing.
“It’s just a natural, biological cycle. It’s really just creating an ecosystem,” said Weir. “It’s completely organic. Throughout the growing process, nothing unhealthy goes into the system.”
In addition to the aquaponics system, his Dalhousie plot has around half an acre of farmland, which when fully operational, should produce enough food to support 300 people throughout the growing season.
Weir sells his food through various avenues.
“I sell it at Parkdale farmer’s market on Wednesdays,” said Weir. “Also, I sell through CSA, which is community supported agriculture. This is where people buy into a food box at the beginning of the year and during the harvestable season, I bring them a box of produce.”
These boxes are available throughout the city, including the university.
“I do deliveries to the university. There’s a bunch of people who have bought into it,” said Weir. “It’s a win-win. They get fresh local food and in the process they get to support the farmer.”
Weir said one of his goals with GGCUF is to create an aquaponics setup that could be used by students to grow their own food.
“I want to make it so it would be feasible for students who have a limited budget, limited space, not a lot of time and limited technical knowledge,” he said. “My current system could be built for $500. It takes up a very small amount of space, it’s all self contained and it uses a very small amount of power and water.”
In the end, what drives Weir is his love of farming and the positive role he sees it playing in the community.
“I think we need sources of local, healthy, fresh food that are as accessible as possible on an economic standpoint and a quality standpoint,” he said. “Even if Calgary seems barren and cold half of the time, we can all still grow stuff.”