This past summer I did a bit of volunteering at a local urban farming plot that some friends facilitate. They have been given half of a parking lot in the middle of Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC to set up small garden plots. They fit about six 3×5 plots for specific vegetable gardening and they have flowers all around the outside. When summer comes around it is so nice to walk past a garden in the middle of the city, especially in Vancouver after months of grey and rain. If farmed well, each plot can produce a substantial crop, enough to sustain the growers and friends for a few months. The function of this specific garden is more focused on community development and relationship building rather than the actually farming aspect. However, my time volunteering at the Servants Urban garden opened my mind to the possibilities of urban farming.
A CRISIS LOOMING?
The possibility of a worldwide food crisis, is more and more seeming like an inevitable reality. For those of us living in cities, this is a risk to us. Even now, food prices increase every year and we have no options but to continue buying what our grocery stores provide. You will more often find produce from other countries before finding anything grown within 100 km of wherever you might live. In Vancouver, we have the added risk of the imminent earthquake. I’ve heard it said that if the earthquake we have been expecting were to hit today, we only have enough food in the city to provide for everyone for 3 days. If bridges and highways were shut down, we would have a very immediate food crisis, and panic would take over the city. These are a few of the very serious reasons to consider Urban Farming. However, even if you look past those, as the Servants Urban Garden shows, it is just as good of an idea to save a bit of money, have a reason to be outside, make new friends, and be somewhat independent as a family or community.
Vancouver has a lot of hippies, and therefore we already have quite a number of urban farms. The mayor of Vancouver is strongly endorsing and encouraging the making of more farms within his city. Sole Food Vancouver is one of the largest facilitators of urban farms within Vancouver. They have four farms situated on the Eastside of downtown. The largest of their farms is two acres right beside Rogers Arena and False Creek. It is a tourist heavy area, and quite an achievement to get that much land in a compact city like Vancouver. I recently read an article about a man who was given access to the top floor of a parking garage to start growing produce. He utilized the space by building three tiered gardening plots to maximize the use of his space. One of the main benefits he sees in his farm is that local restaurants that are buying his produce can request how they want it, and because he grows so close to his customers, he can provide the produce exactly how they want it.
Urban Farming can also have a global impact. Countries that produce food for wealthier and modernized countries are often unable to afford the food that they make because of the popularity of that certain product. For example, quinoa used to be a staple grain in South American countries. Now, because of it’s immense popularity in the modern world, the price of quinoa in South America has tripled and those who export quinoa can no longer afford to consume their own homegrown food. This is but one of many examples that could be given from all over the world. The over consumption of modernized countries is destroying the world. We can contribute to regaining some sustainability by growing our own food, or supporting pre-existing urban farms.
HMMM, FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Should we care about global impact of the food industry and how we live our daily lives? Why or why not?
- Have you ever considered buying local produce (within 100 km)? Why or why not?
- What impact would it make on your life and for your community if you only bought local produce (particularly during the growing season for those areas where full blown winters are a reality)?
- Is it possible to grow fruits or vegetables in your backyard? If so, why not try it out!
:: by Jared Braund of Vancouver, BC
I’m a student of The War College in downtown Vancouver, living in the 614 community, pursuing God in the poor of the Downtown Eastside. I’m currently living out my passion for the janitorial arts, but would one day like to be a writer.