Vancouver's Leader in Transition toward Strong, Resilient, Complete Communities
Urban market gardens (urban farms) are social enterprises organized to grow and sell more food in the city. Victory Gardens meet Peak Oil and the 21st century. Urban homesteaders welcome here too! Part of our Neighbourhood Food Networks.
SOLEFood, many urban CSAs, backyard farms and cooperative farming collaboratives are in operation across Vancouver. Some use cold frames to extend the planting season. Some are run more as a formal business with employees on hourly wages; others are sole proprietorships. All in all, the margins are tight and the work involves long hours. There are few harder ways to make a living in one of the most expensive cities in North America, but none more rewarding.
We got to wondering if there was not something special about urban agriculture that would help turn it into an even higher yielding and thus more sustainable endeavor. Certainly the need for transportation and complex distribution systems drops along with the food miles, and freshness is unbeatable. But despite the obvious value of being close to one's market, does the market in fact reward this? And even if it did, and it appears it doesn't much, can the most needy of healthy local food in our cities afford such a premium?
The challenges are clear, and the answer is just below the surface.
Village Vancouver members have combined two "pillar technologies" of sustainability--both in fact age-old techniques--to bring Vancouver into the 21st century. The Twin Harvest Project combines urban organic farming with horizontal loop geothermal exchange to create an economic- and ecologically-sustainable synergy. To find out more, and view the full proposal sent to the City of Vancouver in 2009, visit the Twin Harvest project web site here, or download the full proposal here.
In brief, farms adjacent to a large metropolitan area seem at most to be able to net their operators $6 to $12 per hour from revenues of $3 to $6 per square foot under cultivation per year. The income volatility from year to year is huge for smaller operations. Here is a well-researched economic primer on starting a Market Garden. We hope this data is not the last word on the subject, that urban farming techniques and yields will improve, and that remuneration will climb quickly as Peak Oil changes everything about industrial farming economics.
But we have to work with what we have, including current conditions, and it is financial analysis like that above, albeit not the last word on the subject, that led us to look for stable ancillary sources of income from the same land. Just as many farmers work extra winter jobs away from the farm, we knew we also needed to consider other sources of revenue.
We then realized the same large flat open space that our farm required would also be suitable as a site for collecting geothermal energy, and the combination would be potentially synergistic.
We are eager to start an organized lobbying group to push this project to fruition, at least on a pilot scale, on a City-owned lot in Vancouver. Some members of the early design team are considering shopping this idea outside of Vancouver and even BC because of the lack of interest here. San Francisco has already approved an urban market garden in a dense neighbourhood, accomplishing half of what we want. We'd hate to see such seminal Vancouver ideas become the groundbreaking technological innovations ascribed to another city. Please consider how you could aid the adoption of this carbon-sequestering, synergistic project by contacting us here.
This Weekend (Oct 8-9):4 Free and near Free Gardening Workshops with Gardening for the Faint of Heart and Food Security for the Faint of Heart author…Continue
Phil Marsh will discuss production systems and the science and applications behind Biochar carbon sequestering and nutrient production. Composting can improve poor soils by 66% but by adding biochar…Continue
Hi all,In my opinion, the Two Block Diet (TBD) is one of the best local food initiatives in the city; it would be great if there was at least one such initiative in every VV neighbourhood …Continue