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Cultivating solutions: pandemic highlights need for local food in Cochrane

Cultivate Cochrane has got the wheels turning on its travelling greenhouse thanks to community partners.

Cultivate Cochrane is a local non-profit planning a solutions-based community greenhouse hub, demonstration space and learning centre.

Using regenerative, innovative and accessible strategies, we aim to empower the community to grow food in our challenging climate, improve health and lifestyle, and connect more deeply to place and each other.

As a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of a larger hub, we have an exciting project in the works — an education greenhouse on wheels!

We’ve dubbed it the Passive Solar Roller since it will showcase passive solar design as a sustainable method of extending our growing season here in Alberta.

Between the pandemic and major weather events, the past couple of years have highlighted the importance of learning to take care of some of our food needs locally.

By spring, you should see the greenhouse travelling around town providing hands-on programming about food growing, nutrition and resiliency to youth and the public at large.

The design for the Passive Solar Roller was dreamt up by a team of us at Cultivate Cochrane, but the capable folks at OnGrowing Works will be the ones taking it from dream to reality.

OnGrowing Works is a locally-owned company that creates sustainable living spaces, their work ranging from design to construction to landscaping. One of their core values is sustainability and it shows up in their projects through water-conservation techniques, materials consideration, energy efficiency, integration of solar power and more.

In their words: “Wherever possible, our work supports the natural environment, creates engaging social spaces and enhances economic prosperity. We champion designs that create environmentally responsible structures and spaces from conception to completion, and that match and support local ecology.”

Cultivate Cochrane is pleased to be working with OnGrowing Works for the construction of the Passive Solar Roller.

With several meetings under our belts (and many more to come!), their commitment to communication, transparency and the success of our project is clear.

They have experience with greenhouses and even with passive solar design, but our lightweight, roadworthy, pencil-sketched, dormer-windowed greenhouse is a one-of-a-kind undertaking.

With COVID-19 circulating widely, supply chain challenges and fluctuating material prices, it takes a special kind of flexibility and commitment to complete such a custom and unique build on a budget.

Matt Ashton, project manager with OnGrowing Works, describes why they were keen to work with us on this mobile greenhouse: “The idea of sustainability, passive solar design and food generation all resonate with our company goals and vision. We’re excited to play a role in this project by providing construction support and look forward to seeing the impact the Passive Solar Roller will have on our children, youth and family programs in the area.”

We look forward to it, too!

Watch this column over the coming months as we follow the greenhouse’s progress and introduce more of our cherished community partners along the way.

Jackie Skrypnek is a director with Cultivate Cochrane. More information and updates at