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Operation Grow close to opening Midland produce shop

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In just over two months, Midland residents will be able to start purchasing fresh produce grown right downtown.

Huronia Transition Homes (HTH) has started construction on Operation Grow, a facility that will grow fresh produce while also assisting the women the local shelter supports.

The facility, which is located in the old LCBO building at 436 Bay Street, is going to feature a yoga and meditation hall, drop-in meeting space and kitchen, along with a unique produce-growing operation.

Vertical farming technology will be utilized in the building to maximize the amount of produce the facility can grow. All of the women at the shelter will be trained on how to use the technology and paid a living wage to work at the facility.

“It will act as a training facility because our ultimate dream is to grow Operation Grow into a 10,000-square-foot farm where we will be producing fresh produce 365 days a year for our community and beyond.”

Executive director Kathy Willis said the women they serve played a huge role in the development of the HTH strategic plan. Their feedback was directly considered when creating the vision for a new social enterprise.

“In our 2010 strategic plan the women we spoke to said they were hungry, they were tired, they were isolated and they needed more money,” said Willis.

Operation Grow will address all of these key components by breaking down social isolation, giving women employment opportunities and addressing food insecurity.

“Operation Grow is a multi-purpose building and it will provide women with opportunities to increase resiliencies, enhance their autonomy, allow them to connect and build relationships and allow them to heal more fully from the violence in their lives,” said Willis.

Willis provided a detailed presentation to both Midland and Penetanguishene councils over the past month. She is keeping all the local councils in the loop, in hopes of getting some financial help down the road.

There were no suitable properties in the downtown core, so the project ended up going $1 million over budget on their capital costs in order to keep the project alive.

“We will be completely self-sustainable if we can get the capital costs covered,” said Willis. “We will not be needing to go back to the community for funds to be able to support our program.”

Operation Grow plans on having a retail space and sell produce to local residents.

“You will be able to come every week and pick up your produce at a very convenient location,” said Willis. “We will become a viable source for fresh, nutritious food for many community programs.”

Council was impressed with the project and appeared willing to support the endeavour in some way in the future.

“This is remarkable. The ladies are going to really be impacted by this,” said Mayor Gord McKay.

“It is great to see this come before us and to see this project materializing,” added Coun. Jonathan Main. “It is fantastic to see that you are going with the hub approach.”

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