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Two-acre greenhouse proposed for athletes’ village

Project expected to produce organic vegetables and $500,000 annually for WCSS programs



If a community group gets its way athletes competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics will be munching and crunching cucumbers and carrots grown organically just a few feet away from their living quarters.

The Whistler Community Services Society, a non-profit organization focused on promoting and supporting social sustainability, has sent a proposal to the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games and the Resort Municipality of Whistler to put a two-acre greenhouse beside the athletes’ village at the south end of town.

“We are not asking them for money, we are not asking them to break any rules, we are asking them to allow us to put it down there and to allow us to feed the athletes,” said Dr. Stephen Milstein, who is on the WCSS greenhouse committee.

“We are prepared to take our full production for that month and send it into the athletes’ village. We think this is a good news story for the Olympics, for the province and for Whistler.”

VANOC spokesman Chris Brumwell said the proposal was being considered.

“We are aware of it but it is too early to comment on it at this time,” he said.

WCSS needs VANOC’s blessing as it hopes to build the 80,000 square foot greenhouse next summer and the site is adjacent to the area where the athletes’ village is under construction. WCSS is in the process of working out a deal for the municipally-owned land.

Milstein believes there are many reasons why the project should go forward in time to showcase itself for the Games in February of 2010.

“We think that this project will be a beacon,” he said. “It is the kind of project that will catch people’s attention.”

Not only will it produce organic carrots, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, herbs, cucumbers and peppers, it will do so using heat trapped from the waste water treatment plant and the methane from Whistler’s old landfill, adjacent to the athletes’ village.

WCSS projections show there will only be about three weeks each year when the project would have to buy power from the grid.

All the produce would be sold locally, therefore transportation and packaging costs would be minimal.

Milstein estimates that the project would conservatively make a profit of at least $500,000 a year.

That sweet smell of success makes Janet McDonald’s mouth water in anticipation of the programs that could be brought to the corridor.

“It really gives us the opportunity to grow the programs that are needed in the community,” said the executive director of the WCSS.