Metro explores the latest trends emerging on the West Coast of Canada.
Vancouver Trending: Urban farming on the grow
Vancouver is experiencing an urban farming renaissance of sorts and the city has even launched a two-year pilot project to help legitimize farming in the city.
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Southlands Farm has horses, pigs, chickens and its own market. Sole Food employs people with limited opportunities and grows food in vacant urban spaces. Fresh Roots uses farming as a way to engage young learners.
The city’s farms offer a diverse range of locally grown food and opportunities.
Vancouver is experiencing an urban farming renaissance of sorts.
“There’s an enthusiasm, a sense of resilience and civic engagement,” said Marcela Crowe, Executive Director of the Vancouver Urban Farming Society (VUFS).
The city recently adopted a two-year urban farming pilot. The goal of the project is to “help legitimize urban farming from a land use perspective, and create a consistent approach to urban farming inquiries,” according to the City’s Urban Farming Policy Report.
Besides Vancouver’s long growing season and focus on sustainability, the city’s efforts to promote local agriculture may account for a boom in urban farming. Vancouver aims to increase citywide and neighbourhood food assets by 50 per cent above 2010 levels.
Vancouver has a wide range of farms, the largest being Sole Food at four acres.
There’s also the UBC Farm, which boasts a heritage orchard, a variety of crops, free-range chickens and honeybees as well as a farmers market.
Hannah Wittman, Academic Director for Sustainable Food Systems, pointed out that the farm is launching a participatory seed breeding trial this summer.
“Learning to grow food is one way to expand food literacy in the city,” she said.
Marc Schutzbank, Director of Fresh Roots, believes that urban farming is catching on because “Vancouverites want to be engaged with each other, and gardening is a great way to connect with neighbours.”
Fresh Roots aims to help schools grow community through the process of growing food.
According to Schutzbank, the organization works toward their vision by developing programs that “catalyze ecological stewardship, healthy eating and community celebration."
Their summer program SOYL, for instance, teaches youth to grow and cook healthy meals for themselves and those in need. With the motto “good food for all,” Fresh Roots “cultivates productive, half-acre educational farms where they grow good food for the school, community, cafeteria and neighbours,” said Schutzbank.
Students also sell the food at local farmers' markets. Through gardening, they learn traditional subjects experientially, including science lessons about the nitrogen cycle and math lessons involving modelling garden growth.
One of Fresh Roots’ former participants, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants “hardly spoke" at the beginning of the program, but now she is aware of the importance of healthy and whole foods, said Schutzbank.