When you think of the word farm, you probably picture a rural setting surrounded by rolling green fields, and perhaps featuring a big red barn, a farm dog and a gravel driveway. You probably don’t think of downtown Vancouver, or Shaughnessy, or a schoolyard in the city. Vancouver has a vibrant and growing urban farming community, however, and they’re turning our image of what a farm is like on its head. Of course, there have always been farms in the city, as you know if you visit neighbourhoods like the Southlands. Today’s urban farmers aren’t inhabiting Vancouver’s rural edges, though, they’re bringing the farm to the centre of the city. Here’s what they’re up to – and where you can find them.
Urban Farming in Vancouver
The Vancouver Urban Farming Society is a great place to start if you’re looking for more information about the city’s urban farms. Their first meeting was less than three-and-a-half years ago in November, 2010. They’ve been growing since then – in fact, their third annual meeting happened just last week on March 16, 2013. According to their website, the typical urban farm in Vancouver makes the most of available time and space, has multiple locations, uses sustainable practices, is collaborative in nature, and is a money-making business. Most of the city’s urban farms also have a website or Facebook page where you can keep up with them.
As businesses that sell food, Vancouver’s urban farms often offer CSA programs, or sell their goods at farmers’ markets or farmgate stores. Urban farming is all about enhancing food security, which means that they’re a great source of local food that you can feel good about eating. Many also sell seedlings or seeds that you can plant at home in your own garden. To see a full list of Vancouver’s urban farms, and to get a list of local CSA programs, visit the Vancouver Urban Farming Society online.
A Few of Vancouver’s Urban Farms
Here are a few of Vancouver’s urban farms, which you might want to check out
- Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society – Fresh Roots has urban farm sites at Queen Alexandra Elementary, Vancouver Technical Secondary, and David Thompson Secondary. Their market gardens are used as outdoor classrooms. They also host classes and workshops, urban farming training and community celebrations. They sell their produce to school cafeterias, offer a veggie box program and run a neighbourhood market stand the first Thursday of every month at David Thompson. (www.freshroots.ca)
- Inner-City Farms – Inner-City Farms grows veggies using organic methods in residential spaces in Vancouver. They revive neglected gardens and convert lawns into urban farmin spaces, all within Vancouver city limits. Vancouverites who support their efforts provide the land, and the farmers share their bounty. The best way to get a share of their veggies for yourself is through their CSA program.(www.innercityfarms.com)
- Sole Food Farms – If you’ve seen the growing beds located just below BC Place, or on the Downtown East Side and wondered what they were, the answer is that they’re both one of four sites where Sole Food Farms grows food. Sole Food transforms vacant urban land into farms that grow food, which you can find at farmers’ markets, stores and restaurants. They also offer CSA shares, and engage community members in growing food. (solefoodfarms.com)
- Urban Digs – We profiled this farm on Earth Day 2012. Since we wrote about it, the farm has moved from Vancouver’s West Side to its new location in South Burnaby. They offer veggie boxes and ‘beasty boxes’, which contain local meat from small scale farms practicing sustainable farming. You can also buy a share in a pig if you want to get really up close and personal with your meat. www.urbandigsfarm.com
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.