Deep Roots cellar grand opening

KANATA – After five years of planning, fundraising and building, there was a sense of relief alongside the joy of the official opening of the Deep Roots Food Hub community root cellar last night (Sept. 22).

Just inside Bay Ward, on the dusty Davidson’s Side Road, just more than 30 people joined the Deep Roots Food Hub board and community investors to officially cut the ribbon on the root cellar, an official opening before the Deep Roots Food Hub annual general meeting also scheduled for the evening.

The project, started in idea form five years ago, as a place for West Carleton farmers to safely store harvested food. The National Capital Commission donated land for the project, the City of Ottawa donated $25,000 and the Ottawa Community Foundation also provided financial support. In 2019, the cellar was built, and last winter the team tested its ability to safely store food.

“It’s such an amazing sense of accomplishment,” food hub co-chair Judi Varga-Toth told West Carleton Online following the ribbon cutting. “Its been 1,000s and 1,000s of volunteer hours by the West Carleton community. COVID-19 shows how important food security is. We get so much of our food from California. As we watch California burn, we realize, how are going to feed ourselves?”

A photo of the inside of the root cellar.
A board member shows off the technology hub that controls the temperature and other elements of the root cellar. Photo by Jake Davies

The cellar is one small step towards doing that for the West Carleton community. It has the capacity to store up to 60,000 pounds (27,000 kg) of food in the 25-foot by 25-foot (600 square feet) storage space. The cellar is state of the art and off the grid.

The facility provides small-scale vegetable growers with a post-season sustainable and energy-efficient storage facility providing longer root crop storage and extended sales and/or distribution possibilities. 
The Quonset-styled metal building is designed to capture and circulate ground-sourced geothermal heat to maintain a near-constant + two degrees Cesius temperature and 90-95 percent humidity within the structure’s root storage chamber.  

The off-grid design utilizes three solar panels and four 12-volt vehicle batteries to capture and store energy to power the air circulation fans, monitoring instrumentation, and required interior lighting. All the controls can be accessed remotely through wi-fi and statistical data can be monitored off-site on its own web page. The root cellar’s modular structure allows for future expansion by simply adding arch sections to achieve any desired length.

An eight-inch layer of spray foam insulation, with a fire-proof and water-proof membrane, has been applied to the inside of the storage chamber’s arched walls. The perimeter of the building, to five feet beyond the concrete footings, is insulated with high-density insulation panels reducing the transfer of frost to the inner wall and under-floor soils of the root cellar. The storage chamber’s insulated floor is raised, supported by cement blocks, to allow under-floor air circulation of cool air (passively transmitted, in winter time, through the insulated walls) or naturally-warmed air, tempered by the underlying soils, to maintain the desired interior root storage temperatures.  

Bay Ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh was also on hand for the opening.

“Farming is a tough business,” she told West Carleton Online. “I just want to be supportive of anything that supports food production. The more we can grow locally, the better.”

Not only did the Ottawa Community Association invest in the cellar, they are donating another $15,000 (which was won through a competitive bidding process) for the projects next step – the making of a professional business plan.

“We very much look forward to seeing the benefits to the community,” Ottawa Community Association vice president Adam Harvey said.

Hub board member Dr. Barry Bruce says the funding is necessary.

“It’s for a business plan we badly need,” he said. “We have one, but its not formalized and it’s very badly written.”

Next up for the cellar, the hub board looks to stock it with more food this winter.

“Last year we successfully stored some root crops last winter,” Varga-Toth said. “We want to store more food this year on a trial basis. We’re looking for some farmers who want to store some food with us.”

As far as the AGM is concerned, the Deep Roots Food Hub currently has five members on the board but is looking for more. You can find out more about the food hub at their website here.