Subnivean Farms

Submitted on Wednesday, 10/11/2023 - 4:09 pm

About Subnivean Farm

Subnivean Farm is a cold weather market garden and Permaculture Design Project in Calgary, AB. Situated on Hull Services’ SW campus, the  farm produces food for Hull Services and the surrounding community. The Farm offers a diversity of ecological systems to be explored. From its 60 year-old aspen stand and food forest, to the Passive Solar Greenhouse, the farm is a productive example of the benefit of these systems attached to community hubs and schools.

Subnivean Farm uses the regulating processes embedded in food production and ecological system management to help ground and stabilize the community. Hull counselors and teachers gain a valuable milieu to pursue therapeutic and curricular goals with the young people at Hull, with organic and nutrient dense food thrown in for good measure.

The project continues develop thanks to engagement from a supportive community and the combined energy of stakeholders across multiple industries. A shared vision to build a greenhouse on Hull’s SW campus has developed into a system that is feeding, regulating and inspiring the community.

The Beginnings of Subnivean Farm at Hull Services

The seeds of Subnivean Farm were planted in 2016 by Jon Berlie and Vaden Somers. While exploring the world of permaculture in regards to their own homes in Calgary, they envisioned having a permaculture design project at Hull Services’ SW campus in Calgary on site at the Hull School.

Shortly thereafter, during a tour, Vaden had the chance to pitch the idea to representatives of Fluor Canada. Fluor has been a dedicated supporter of the work at Hull Services for decades and was eager to support the project.

With the help of Fluor and Rob and Michelle Avis of Verge Permaculture, the project kicked off with the design and construction of a 500 sq/ft four-season Passive Solar Greenhouse.

The greenhouse officially opened for growing in the spring of 2018. Since then, the garden has added over 8,500 sq/ft of market garden beds and is providing nutrient-dense, organically-raised food to the Hull community and beyond each year.

The Therapeutic Value of Gardening

Internationally recognized for our work in leading-edge trauma-informed care, Hull uses brain science to help children and youth suffering the devastating impacts of developmental trauma. Activities that take place at Subnivean Farms like gardening are highly-regulating, sensory-rich and therapeutic and tie into the neuroscience that guides us.

The sounds of birds overhead and the buzz of the bees busy pollinating, the vibrant colors of the plants, the smell of the flowers, the taste of fresh mint or grapes straight off the vines, and the feel of the soil, all create a soothing sensory symphony. Add to that the regulating activities of quiet work and repetitive motion such as picking or digging, and you have a very powerful therapeutic tool.

Subnivean Farm is also a prime spot for social development and relationship building — something the children and youth we support often struggle with. Lots of conversations take place while working side-by-side in the garden.

The half-acre farm, including the greenhouse on it, offers up science-based learning and introduces career options such as horticulture, agriculture and culinary arts.  Subnivean Farms teaches a host of lessons to the student aged 6 – 18 years old at William Roper Hull School such as:

  • Composting system management
  • Soil Health
  • Traditional medicines
  • Plant Germination, cultivation and care.
  • Beneficial insect and animal identification
  • Pest Control strategies
  • Geo-Textiles and Fabric Use

Learn more about the therapeutic value of Subnivean Farm. 

Subnivean Farms Collaborations in the Community

Subnivean Farms is made possible by the generous support of: