Abbey Gardens is a not-for profit charity and our big dream is to transform a spent gravel pit (300 acres) into a green space that provides economic and recreational opportunities for our community. Everything we do on site helps further our mission to create opportunities to learn about living more sustainably. If you want to learn about local food, gardening, energy, sustainable construction, heritage agricultural animals, land restoration or cooking techniques, this is the place to visit! Our site features local food shopping opportunities through our Food Hub, interpretive trails, heritage breed displays, programming and event spaces, picnic areas and kiosks. Currently, we are developing a personal wellness component through the development of a retreat facility, in partnership with the Abbey Retreat Centre.
Our 300-acre site is developing incrementally as we learn more about community needs and interests. The market garden currently covers 2 ½ acres of partially restored gravel pit. This area boasts a straw bale building, with solar net metering and heating and cooling with geothermal energy that is taking shape as a community food hub, complete with cooking and gardening classes. We have three full time year round staff members and our team grows to 10-12 during the spring/summer season. This team is focused on creating educational experiences for visitors through workshops and tours, and exposure to various demonstration areas (i.e. composting, heritage breeds, soil regeneration, restoration). We are currently partnering with Trent University and Fleming College to provide research opportunities to students whose work can then help inform our development. The opportunities for other businesses are varied. At this stage Haliburton Highlands Brewing; Into the Blue Bakery, a mobile pizza oven operation; and County Coffee all had their beginnings at, and operate on, our site. In the fall of 2016 Haliburton Solar and Wind, an established business, moved to the site. It is housed in a building constructed by the Fleming Sustainable Building Program and has invested in the creation of an Alternative Energy Demonstration Area that showcases solar and wind technology that powers their off-grid office and education space. We have also installed a biomass boiler to heat two buildings on the property and have entered into discussions with Biothermic, a local wood-fired boiler company with a vision for “local fuel”. As the 2019 season approaches we are in conversation with three other local entrepreneurs about how they can participate at Abbey Gardens.
Abbey Gardens is a growing hub for agri-food innovation and a social enterprise showcase for rural communities. The future of our site includes trail development to encourage an increased number of visitors; expansion of the garden demonstration site; and expanding opportunities for business partnership. The property is a destination that demonstrates what is possible for local food production and sustainable living (including renewable energy). Educational programming supports visitors and local producers who want to learn more about sustainability, gardening, food processing, and ecology. The Food Hub provides an outlet for many local producers and creates ways for consumers to access local food.