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Urban Farming

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.

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Members: 42
Latest Activity: Jul 14, 2015

Urban Farming

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?

To read more about the tight economics of small-scale farming on plots from 1/2 to 70 acres, read this excellent study 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.   

Finally, check out this presentation by urban food activist Philip Be'er, with art by Sam Bradd, that covers many of the good reasons to grow food locally.

Discussion Forum

This weekend (Oct 8-9) 4 Free and near Free Gardening workshops with Robin Wheeler

Started by Ross Moster Oct 7, 2011. 0 Replies

                                             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

Reminder: BC Biochar discussion with Phil Marsh tonight

Started by Ross Moster Mar 18, 2011. 0 Replies

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

Two Block Diet: We have a great presentation scheduled for tomorrow evening which we will need to cancel unless we know more people are coming...

Started by Ross Moster. Last reply by Ross Moster Feb 24, 2011. 1 Reply

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

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Comment by Randy Chatterjee on June 12, 2012 at 9:37am

An article from BBC Scotland about the movement to free up unused p... is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-18405257

This issue is crucial to us in a City regulating itself and its residents to death, or at least into homelessness and malnutrition. In my book, homelessness and malnutrition are tantamount to death, and death by the cruelest of means. Recognizing the core democratic principle that the people most affected by any issue are those most knowledgeable about solutions, we find in this City an army of politicians and bureaucrats laying waste to our livability by arbitrarily applying a set of rules that serve no one. Here from Scotland, a nation with a similar Common Law and colonial background as BC, are possible solutions:

'Rising numbers' growing own food
Scotland first to map green space


The Scottish Parliament is to be asked to make it easier for people to grow food on underused ground owned by public bodies and private businesses.

A petition to Holyrood says there should be a presumption in favour of allowing access.

It argues that allowing people to grow and harvest food on derelict and unused land would be good for their diets and budgets.

The petition will be considered by a committee of MSPs later on Tuesday.

The Scottish government last week launched a consultation on its proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

Among the questions asked in the consultation are whether communities should have a right to use or manage unused and underused public sector assets.

Food security
The consultation also asks what measures can be introduced to provide people with space to grow fruit and vegetables or establish community gardens.

The petitioners argue that bodies such as councils, health boards, power companies and conservation organisations all own large amounts of unused land, some of which is derelict or unused.

They state: "We believe that much land is needlessly unproductive, and would urge the Scottish government to encourage ways to allow people to use land more intelligently.

"We believe that making land available to poorer Scots offers them a way to grow healthy, accessible local food, and build skills and food security at a local level.

The petition was lodged with the parliament by John Hancox, who has been involved in a number of community garden projects.

He has been involved in cultivating fruit trees close to the River Kelvin in Glasgow.

He said: "We identified a bit of land that was basically being used for not very much else. It's actually a really nice bit of ground.

"It's south-facing, and we planted three plum trees, which have done really well. They're all covered in plums now, which is really nice.

"Having a few fruit trees next to the Kelvin - it's a no-brainer. Why not more of this kind of thing?"

Wildlife habitats
However, some organisations named in his petition as holding large amounts of land which might be suitable for growing food told BBC Scotland there would be practical difficulties with implementing Mr Hancox's proposal.

They included RSPB Scotland, which said the land it owns is looked after specifically to promote conservation and to provide habitats for many of the country's rarest and most threatened species.

Permitting a deliberate change in management practice that would potentially devalue its suitability for those species would be against its principles as a wildlife conservation charity, it added, and would also likely be illegal.

And Scottish Natural Heritage said it was "supportive" of the idea but pointed out that its land is quite often not suitable for growing things and can be distant from communities who may be interested in it.

Comment by Randy Chatterjee on April 10, 2012 at 8:14am

The latest in Urban Market Gardens is that San Francisco is now rezoning larger city sites for food production specifically in "urban market gardens."  One of the first, Little City Gardens at 3/4 acre, has its website here. A recent short article from the SF Planning and Urban Renewal Association (SPUR) about the recent approval of Little City Gardens is also great reading.

Meanwhile, after a year-long effort by dozens of Main Street Neighbourhood urban food activists, two Village Vancouver proposals for theLittle Mountain Commons collaborative community garden on a 8000 square-foot city lot that's been empty for 10 years have been turned down.  So also rejected was a more modest proposal for Kits Point in an unused field adjacent to Vanier Park.  We are still hopeful for a new community garden in Grandview-Woodlands Village (Commercial Drive area) at Woodlands Park.  We are uncertain what portion may be allowed to be farmed collaboratively, instead of in individual small plots.

Comment by Hella Dee on September 5, 2011 at 2:58pm
Thanks for that Randy!
Comment by Randy Chatterjee on September 5, 2011 at 7:42am
Sharla Stolhandske of UBC has just completed her PhD dissertation on urban farming in Vancouver, its history, economic viability, and prospects.  She also makes several policy recommendations to improve Vancouver's food security and local economy.  Download and read it here.
Comment by Susanne Talkington on April 11, 2011 at 8:22pm

Hello Cylia

Thanks for the reply. You didn't even comment on the fact that I was slightly confused, so thanks for going with it! Please let me know what time the meeting is tomorrow night....have a class tomorrow night...but timing might work. I'd like to attend if possible. Also your spring fling sounds like it will be fun!

Comment by Cylia on April 10, 2011 at 4:57pm
Hi Susanne:  our event is very low key if you want to give us a try.  I know it's only a couple of weeks away. I look forward to meeting you at the April meeting which is this Tuesday.  cylia 
Comment by Susanne Talkington on April 10, 2011 at 10:10am

Hello Cylia

I had been in touch with Renee some time back to inform her that I was interested in being involved with the Underground Market, potentially as a vendor. Renee encouraged me to let the group know and to attend the next planning meeting in April. I have been thinking about it for some time now, so I'd really like to be involved in some capacity, however, not certain that I will be ready to participate as a vendor by May's spring fling event.........

Comment by Cylia on April 9, 2011 at 10:44pm
Looking for urban farmers and/or vendors who have produce/crafts/arts to sell at our May 1 spring fling event. If you're interested, email me. 
Comment by Susan Jane Bibbings on November 22, 2010 at 4:03pm
Hi! This is Susan Bibbings and I am one of the 'City Farm Girls' - glad to join.
Comment by Randy Chatterjee on November 20, 2010 at 11:42pm
 

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