Warmth and Shelter

Late frost, early frost, snow in May and June, hail, wild winds, and opportunistic squirrels, rabbits, and deer. Just some of the reasons a greenhouse can make a whole lot of sense for growing food in Cochrane!


While I’ll always be happy to have a garden out of doors, some of those crops are routinely challenged and stunted by weather and animals beyond our control. By contrast, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and basil happily thrive in the warmth and shelter of my greenhouse. And there’s nothing more pleasant than doing a bit of pruning, weeding, and watering in this sunny little structure on a cooler day or first thing in the morning when the air outside is still chilled.

A fledgling tomato in my greenhouse early June

A fledgling tomato in my greenhouse early June

Many people find themselves frustrated by Cochrane’s challenging food-growing climate and figure they’ll leave it up to BC, California, Mexico, or even South Africa to deliver our produce. But we can grow more than we think here if we choose the right plants and innovate ways to extend the season. Anything from a cold frame to my somewhat ramshackle greenhouse will add to how well we can begin to feed ourselves from our own backyard with the healthiest and most sustainable produce possible. The ultimate system for season extension in these parts is, of course, the passive solar greenhouse. 


Once our community greenhouse hub becomes a reality, we can add another layer to those greenhouse benefits - community connection and gathering! Until then, I’ll tend my tomatoes for another season and keep my fingers crossed for a frost-free September for the rest of the garden!

My attempt to shelter an outdoor tomato plant last September

My attempt to shelter an outdoor tomato plant last September

Cultivate Cochrane at the Cochrane Farmers' Market this Summer!

We are thrilled to be part of the Cochrane Farmers’ Market and the Cochrane Street Market this summer. Come and talk with us, fill out our community engagement questions and pick up some free goodies for your garden, window box or planter box or learn about our skill build workshops for the fall.

We are at the Farmers’ Market from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm on June 15, July 6 and 27, August 17 and September 14.

We are at the Cochrane Street Market from 5-9 pm on June 20 and July 18.

We hope to see you there!

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Passive Solar Backyard Greenhouse Information

Rob Avis at the Cochrane Public Library on May 5, 2019

Rob Avis at the Cochrane Public Library on May 5, 2019

On May 5, Cultivate Cochrane Society hosted Rob Avis of Verge Permaculture at the Cochrane Public Library where he spent an hour talking on Backyard Passive Solar Greenhouses to an avid group of 50 people. Following Rob’s amazingly informative talk, 24 of us piled into two tour vans and visited three backyard passive solar greenhouses ranging in size from 100 to 500 sq. feet. Along the way we learned about green building, climate and financial resiliency, alternatives way of growing food and community and of more hopeful paths for the future. We want to thank Rob, our sponsors (see below) and all of our participants who came for a successful and inspiring launch event for Cultivate Cochrane Society.

Below are further readings, information and video links related to the greenhouse talk and tour for anyone interested in the possibility of building, or having built, a functioning backyard greenhouse.

Rob’s backyard greenhouse.

Rob’s backyard greenhouse.

These are the three greenhouses we visited on the tour:

500 sq foot Passive Solar Greenhouse on School grounds.

Rob Avis’ Green House and the Three Mistakes he made on his passive solar greenhouse design.

Jeremy Zoller’s Micro Backyard Greenhouse.

For fun, Rob also has a video on a low cost (less than $1000 Geodesic Dome style greenhouse) that is worth checking for the DYI types out there.


Designing Your Own Backyard Greenhouse

If you’re really keen on learning as much as you can about greenhouses and want to avoid costly design mistakes, then we highly recommend three resources from Rob Avis below:

Verge’s FREE Design Your Own Passive Solar Greenhouse Like a Professional video course.

Verge’s Passive Solar Greenhouse Case Studies package for $97 USD

Verge’s Passive Solar Greenhouse Design DIY package for $247 USD


Partners to Design and Build Your Passive Solar Backyard Greenhouse

The following companies can help you design and build a high functioning greenhouse for your yard.


For anyone who wants a life transforming adventure, we highly recommend taking a two-week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) from Verge Permaculture. Three of the board members of Cultivate Cochrane Society all have PDC’s from Verge and the life knowledge we gained is the inspiration for us to establish a passive solar community greenhouse hub in Cochrane. Highly recommended!


Thanks again to our wonderful sponsors for making our launch event a resounding success!

Verge Permaculture, OnGrowing Works, Cochrane Environmental Action Committee (CEAC), and The Noble Fox Coffee.

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Cultivating Connections with CEAC

“To make Cochrane and area a more environmentally aware and active community”. That’s the mission of the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee (CEAC), a longstanding group of dedicated individuals that has been quietly improving the wellbeing of our community and the natural world that supports us for years. Maybe you’re familiar with CEAC, maybe you’re not, but almost certainly you’ve benefitted from one or more of their many initiatives.

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Among their achievements is the establishment of Cochrane’s first recycling facility, hosting numerous talks, conferences, and screenings, and the funding of schoolyard naturalization projects. CEAC was instrumental in the brownfield committee that achieved remediation of contaminated lands in the centre of town, and provided critical funding to the Cochrane High Sustainable Energy Project. They continue to organize weed pulls of invasive species and have overseen 23 years of the Branches & Banks event that sees hundreds of native trees and shrubs planted and the Big Hill creek cleaned up. 

Oh, and the Cochrane Farmers’ Market? CEAC runs that, too. Not only is the market a huge draw to visitors and a social hub for locals, it’s a crucial platform that brings growers and other makers of food together with eaters to build a viable local food system. That’s something Cultivate Cochrane can really get behind! We are thrilled to have them as partners who share our vision of building a resilient and connected community and who have thrown their support behind our planned greenhouse hub. CEAC is a key sponsor of our upcoming Cold Climate Backyard Greenhouses Talk & Tour.

2019 marks CEAC’s 30th anniversary of working behind the scenes towards an environmentally sustainable future for Cochrane and beyond. Let’s raise a glass to all they have done and continue to do for our community!

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Partnering with the The Noble Fox Coffee Shop

We are thrilled to announce that The Noble Fox Coffee Shop is one of Cultivate Cochrane’s latest business supporters. As soon as Carlos and Carolyn found our initiative to build a community greenhouse hub they joined as active members in the society. They were quick to offer their coffee shop as a meeting place for our Coffee Chats and our member meetings, as a venue for our Skill Build Workshops (like the Tea Cup Bird Feeder Workshop happening on May 8) and finally as a sponsor of our Greenhouse talk and tour on May 5 by supplying snacks and drinks for our bus tour participants. Thanks to The Noble Fox for all their community initiatives within Cultivate Cochrane and beyond. We love to partner with business that builds community!

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The Noble Fox owners, Carlos and Carolyn.

The Noble Fox owners, Carlos and Carolyn.

Great New Partnership with OnGrowing Works!

Cultivate Cochrane is thrilled to partner with OnGrowing Works of Cochrane. OnGrowing Works is a leader in landscape and construction design with an eye towards sustainable and resilient solutions for their clients and the community. OnGrowing Works is an active community advocate and provides educational and monetary support for a wide range of green and social initiatives with Cultivate Cochrane as one of their beneficiaries. For example, OnGrowing Works is a sponsor of our upcoming Greenhouse Bus Tour and provides monetary support through its amazing Spring Workshop Series where profits from their fantastic educational workshops come back to Cultivate Cochrane to help us build a passive solar greenhouse community hub in Cochrane. See the poster below for amazing workshops coming up - we would love to see you there!

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Cultivate Cochrane Coffee Chats

This is your chance to learn more about building a passive solar, community greenhouse in town! Buy a cup of coffee or sweet snack to stimulate your creativity, but come prepared with your questions and your creative input on how and where we can build a community-oriented, food growin' facility. These information sessions are open to the public so bring a friend or neighbour who might wish to learn more about this new and exciting initiative. Here are the local coffee shops we’ll be at in Cochrane:

March 5, 7-8pm The Hub
March 19, 2-3pm The Noble Fox
April 11, 2-3pm Guy's Cafe
April 23, 11-noon Coffee Traders
April 6, 10am and May 1, 2-3pm The Gentry
May 15, 3-4pm Good Earth

Growing Solutions by Jackie Skrypnek

Perhaps by now you’ve heard that we’re likely to pay 4-6% more for vegetables in Canada this year. And Alberta is one of the provinces expected to see the high end of that increase. 

©Anna Pelzer - Unsplash.com

©Anna Pelzer - Unsplash.com

In part, the predicted rise is due to our increased veggie consumption, but climate is also to blame. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded in their latest report that climate change will play a significant yet unpredictable role in 2019 food prices, with North America likely to suffer from lack of moisture. The report emphasizes that agriculture needs to play a part in reducing world carbon emissions to reach the goal of an almost 50% reduction from 2017 levels by 2030. And clearly, if recent droughts in California are any indication, fresh water needs to be treated like the precious resource it is.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

So, our reliance on produce from the US, Mexico, and even further abroad leaves us vulnerable to weather-related supply shortages and the high prices that come with that. Plus, the way we grow and consume food needs to become far more sustainable.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

What seems to be the most intelligent response to all of this? Build our capacity to feed ourselves locally in the most water- and energy-responsible way we can! That’s exactly what Cultivate Cochrane aims to do with a greenhouse that greatly extends our growing season using passive solar design and rainwater capture. Growing food is one of Cultivate Cochrane’s pillars, or perhaps more aptly, its umbrella. How a people feeds itself is a huge part of resilience - the ability to adapt, bounce back, and thrive in the face of change. It’s around food that people come together and get to know each other and the land that supports them.

©Elaine Casap - Unsplash.com

©Elaine Casap - Unsplash.com

We don’t see our greenhouse as a production facility or a mere collection of rented plots. Rather, we want to leverage it as a place to learn, experiment, share, and connect so that, as a community, we build our knowledge, skills, and relationships. Then food growing can go beyond the greenhouse hub and permeate our homes and neighbourhoods, becoming a way of life and weaving a strong fabric of resiliency. 

These are challenging but exciting times - let’s get started!

©Adobe Stock

©Adobe Stock

Memberships and Workshops are now Live!

We are thrilled to announce that we have memberships open to Cultivate Cochrane Society and our first Skill Build Potluck Workshops are open for registration. All monies from memberships and workshops goes back into the society to help us build a community greenhouse hub in Cochrane. Come and join us and be part of movement towards growing local food, community and resiliency skills in Cochrane and beyond!

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Christmas Morning Mom Saver by Catherine Byram

Christmas in my house was always a very busy, noisy, exciting, sometimes nerve wracking time and full of memory making moments.  Being a single mom of three boys and the person who had to prepare all treats and food for eight people didn’t allow me the pleasure of sitting in a comfy chair, wrapped up in a new fluffy housecoat, cozy slippers, coffee in hand, watching family unwrap presents.  One year I decided that I wanted to sit and enjoy family around the tree so I prepared as many food items for Christmas Day in advance. Christmas morning started with ‘Christmas Morning Mom Saver’.

16+ slices of bread   crusts cut off

8-10 slices of ham

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (add more if you like)

6 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1/2tsp pepper

1/2-1tsp dry mustard

1/4cup finely chopped onion 

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

1-2tsp Worcestershire sauce

3 cups whole milk

1/4 lb butter

1 Cup Special K Cereal or crushed Cornflakes for topping

Put one layer (8 pieces) of bread in a buttered 9x13 pan.  Add pieces to cover entire bottom of pan. Cover bread with slices of ham and shredded cheese. Cover with another layer of bread. Add pieces of bread if needed to cover entire top. 

In a bowl beat eggs, salt, pepper. Add mustard, green pepper, onion, Worcestershire sauce and milk. Mix well and pour evenly over the top layer of bread. Make sure to get all bread moist.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. 

Next morning turn oven to 350F. Melt butter in a pan and pour evenly over bread. Put cereal on top of bread making sure to cover entire top.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Now relax and enjoy Christmas!

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