Walk along Pacific Boulevard to Carrall Street in Vancouver and you’ll see a garden growing in a concrete parking lot in the shadow of Rogers Arena. This is SOLEfood Urban Farm’s newest (and, at two acres, biggest) project – a sure sign that urban agriculture has reached Vancouver.
SOLEfood, which received a free three-year lease on the land from Concord Pacific Developments, has been growing bok choy, spinach, eggplant, kale, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and other fruits and veggies in nearly 3,000 wooden planters since last May.
Once harvested, 10% of the produce will be donated to Downtown Eastside (DTES) organizations; the rest will be sold to restaurants and farmer’s markets and divided among members of SOLEfood’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program (find out how you can receive fresh, locally grown produce throughout the year here).
But SOLEfood grows more than food. It also creates jobs for people that may have trouble finding employment. With several more urban gardens in the works, the organization, which was founded by Michael Ableman and Seann Dory, plans to employ up to 25 Vancouver Downtown Eastside residents to build planters and care for the plants by the end of 2012.
Fresh Roots Urban Farm
Another organization with a similar vision is Fresh Roots Urban Farm. Using backyards and schoolyards throughout Metro Vancouver, co-founders Ilana Labow and Gray Oron encourage city dwellers to “sow the seeds of a sustainable urban food system.”
“We use urban land to nourish Vancouver residents,” says Labow, pointing to projects in East Van where squash, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, herbs, edible flowers and other crops are growing. “Joining our CSA or buying from us at a neighbourhood pocket market means you eat food grown just blocks away from your table.”
Through CSAs, “eaters” buy in at the start of the season and receive a weekly box of veggies for the next few months. “Members of our CSAs receive the best of locally available produce and get a feel for what the growing season is like here in Vancouver,” she says, adding that the mild climate means food can be grown in Vancouver year-round.
But Fresh Roots Urban Farm doesn’t just aim to provide people with locally grown food. It also hopes to educate urbanites on how they, too, can reclaim the soil and become “farmers” – even when they live in the heart of the city.
“A lot of our focus right now is on the schools, because once children learn how to grow food themselves they run home and tell their parents, too,” says Labow. “You’d be surprised how much the kids enjoy it; I never thought I’d see eight-year-old boys arm-wrestling over broccoli!”
We love this concept, which supports the community and gives us all a chance to see where our food really comes from and how it’s grown. Take a read of some of the other stories in our Vancouver Community that made us smile.
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