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City Farmer and Urban Agriculture

LA Times Story: Vancouver Envisions Radicchio on its Rooftops
"The Canadian city sees food-producing gardens in urban residential developments as the wave of the future. ... The Southeast False Creek conditions require shared garden plots for 30% of the neighborhood's residential units that lack access to balconies or patios of at least 100 square feet. False Creek buildings also will have a maximum of 12 stories to increase green space and sun exposure. Plans call for fruit trees and raised beds on rooftops, courtyards lined with blueberry bushes, and balcony trellises to support fruit-bearing vines." Updated August 26, 2007

City Farmer Was Born At The Vancouver Community Conservation Centre in 1978
During a six month federal energy conservation project, City Farmer was created. Read about the group's formative months in a report written by the project's leader. "The first issue of City Farmer came out at the end of July (1978) and the second at the end of August. Both received a very positive response. The paper attempts to interest the public by showing them examples of successful Vancouver city farmers. It also reports on political issues that affect the city farmers (there has been a great deal of controversy lately about a particular woman in Vancouver who raises chickens in defiance of city by-laws), and products and information that are of use to them." Posted August 13, 2007

Pristine Outhouse a Compost Outpost
Features City Farmer's Toilet - "There's a lock on the outhouse door, so the toilet is used only by staff and garden visitors willing to abide by the rules: 'Please place toilet paper in toilet after use but do not add other hygiene products; Please sprinkle a cup of shavings from the green container on solid waste after use; Please mark on the calendar an X for liquid waste or an O for solid waste after using the toilet.' " Posted September 4, 2006

National Post article: Worms dine just outside my kitchen
City of Vancouver - City Farmer Program. "I recalled my wife's expression from earlier that day, and also her parting words. But it was too late to bail. The instructor had already dumped a bucket of worms onto a composter lid. From this pile of damp earth emerged a swarming mosh. Suddenly, it was our turn to handle worms. We hived off into groups and got to work. My team prepped its black plastic compost box, filling it halfway with a supply of straw and shredded newspaper. Using a watering can, we more or less soaked the bedding." Posted July 23, 2006

City Farmer's Bugshops - The "5Ps" : Slideshow
"Pollinators, Predators, Processors, Pests, Parasitoids. Photos by Maria Keating" Posted October 4, 2005


Slide Show of City Farmer Activities

Virtual Tour of City Farmer's Demonstration Garden
This virtual tour was created by Graham Clark in April 2004. You will need QuickTime and the On2 codec installed to view the tour. This software is free and can be downloaded once you click on the link. If your QuickTime software and browser won't play the tour, go to this site and download the On2 QuickTime plugin. On2 Plugin Updated September 13, 2005

8 Months Traveling Through 5 Continents, Eco-filmmakers Visit Our Garden
"Emily Bailey and Kate Logan from New Zealand are currently travelling the globe looking for inspiring sustainable projects. Their film called "Kotahi te Ao" means 'there's one world' in Maori." Posted November 5, 2004

Record Long Distance Driver Visits Our Garden
"Adventure Traveler Garry Sowerby visited us on his cross Canada environmental journey, Mission Green. Gary holds 4 Guinness World Records for long distance driving including the 1980 World Circumnavigation by Car "Around the World in 77 Days". The GMC Yukon he has driven across Canada is fueled on cellulose ethanol made from straw, the same straw we use in our worm bins, as mulch on our garden beds, and to build our cob shed." Posted October 18, 2004

Sharon Slack's Home Food Garden
"We rebuilt the carport, put a greenhouse on the front, and stairs up to the roof. I now have a roof-garden. I use a few small wooden planters, and the rest are plastic pots, about 18" in diameter. These are much lighter than the wooden ones, which will be replaced in time. In these pots, I grow my year's supply of garlic, and most of my cooking onions." Posted November 2, 2004

Cob Oven Cooking Event at City Farmer
"Played on CBC radio on August 29, 2004 ... the City Farmer show, recorded on location at the City Farmer garden in Vancouver. Guests include James Barber, Eve Johnson and Assefa Kebede cooking in the cob oven..." Posted September 5, 2004

City Farmer's "Grow Natural" Gardening Series for 2004
" Growing Grub: An Introduction to Organic Food Gardening, Cob Oven Cooking Classes, June's Bugs, The Grass Class, The Water Tour, Backyard Composting, Wormshops, Soil Secrets, Art in the Garden." Posted January 20, 2004

City Farmer's Waterwise Garden
"Waterwise gardening is not synonymous with xeriscaping. Waterwise gardening is a more appropriate explanation for gardening in mesic climates like Vancouver and incorporates the collection and storage of rainwater, soil health, maintenance techniques and the choice of appropriate plant species to create healthy, beautiful gardens. " Posted February 14 2004

Mayor of Vancouver Proclaims November "City Farmer Month"!!
"AND WHEREAS City Farmer is recognized as one of the leaders in providing service and information out to the world about urban agriculture, waste reduction and sustainability;.NOW, THEREFORE, I, Larry Campbell, Mayor of the City of Vancouver, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM the month of November 2003 as "CITY FARMER MONTH" in the City of Vancouver." Posted November 8, 2003

Farmer's Celebrate 25th!
"Twenty-five years ago, City Farmer executive director Michael Levenston and fellow environmentalist Bob Woodworth were asked by the then ministry of energy and mining to study ways for city dwellers to conserve energy. " Posted December 1, 2003

Urban Sustainability Tours at City Farmer's Garden
"City Farmer's garden has been open continuously since 1982 at 2150 Maple Street in Vancouver. We demonstrate urban agriculture and various "green" technologies, all of which can be practiced by residents in the city. Urban Agriculture, Backyard Composters, Worm Bins, Water-wise Garden, Natural Lawn Care, Rain Barrels, Compost Toilet, Country Lane, Cob Shed, Garden Gates and Animals in the Garden." Posted September 16, 2001

Arachnophobia in the Garden of Food and Flowers
"Then I turned the page to the real horror show - the three monsters known as House Spiders. In university I called them the Cheap Basement Suite Spiders. The first of this group is the Barn Funnel Weaver. This is the guy making those thick webs in dark, damp basements and in the corners of old house windows in horror movies. The Hobo Spider has an "alarmingly ugly bite" and the Giant House Spider, which is in the author's words "quite frankly, the creepiest bug in the whole darn province of BC." " Posted March 19, 2003

City Farmer Cob Workshop: June 9 - June 15, 2003
One week intensive - limited enrollment - $400. City Farmer's Compost Demonstration Garden in Kitsilano is to be the site of Vancouver's first cob garden shed. Cob is an ancient building method using clay, sand and straw. Building with earthen materials pre-dates the pyramids.
Updated January 3, 2003

Victory Garden Contest Winner 1942
"My grandfather (Jack Reading) won 1st prize in the 'Vancouver Sun' Victory Garden contest in 1942. I have photos of the garden, the prize letter from the Sun and the original newspaper clipping with all the various winners names." Posted December 28, 2002

City Farmer - Site to Visit - Garden Inspired Tourism
"Garden Inspired Tourism's mission is to act as a catalyst and to facilitate the development and promotion of BC as a globally recognized garden interest destination. Beautiful British Columbia offers year round garden interest with seasonal showings beginning as early as February and lingering on until November, and with unique winter gardens and festivals." Posted December 25, 2002

44% of Vancouver Households Grow Food says City Farmer
"This is the first time in Canadian history a question of this sort has been asked by a professional pollster and the result is significant," says Michael Levenston, Executive Director of the 25-year-old non-profit society based in Vancouver. "That figure represents more than three-quarters of a million people in Greater Vancouver who live in households growing vegetables, fruit, berries, nuts or herbs in their yard, balcony or community garden." Posted October 6, 2002

History of Corry's Slug & Snail Death
"My father recalls working in the Durrance Road basement, helping his elder sister package the formula." Posted April 16, 2000

City of Vancouver May Ban Cosmetic Use of Pesticides on Lawns and Gardens.
"The use of Integrated Pest Management on public lands has illustrated that significant reductions in the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens can be achieved without sacrificing overall landscape quality. This direction would further reduce or eliminate both known or possible environmental and health risks. Posted September 7, 2002

"Country Lanes" to Reduce Rain Water Discharges to the Storm Sewers
Vancouver City Council passed a report to fund three demonstration "Country Lanes". These lanes will have a permeable surface that will allow stormwater to flow into the earth rather than drain into the sewers. City Farmer's garden will be the site of one of these demonstration lanes. Posted September 7, 2002

Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator
Edible Essays on City Farming

A City Farmer Visits Cuba
"We had three groups of Cubans visit our tiny compost demonstration garden in Vancouver last year, and they all invited us to visit them. I decided to take them up on it this past Christmas. What follows are some of the highlights of the urban farms we visited." Posted February 14, 2002

City Farmer Uses the Latest Aerial Photos To Find Out How Much Food is Grown in the City of Vancouver
"Looking down from the sky it's easy to see where city farmland lies. Roofs, driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, trees, lawns and gardens are all clearly visible. The photos on this page were taken of homes in South Vancouver between Fraser and Clarke Avenues. The excellent resolution of the shots (15cm = 1 pixel) allows us to close in from an airplane-view to an almost tree-top view of homes and gardens."
Posted September 3, 2001

Roots of a Political Plot
"The growing international movement known as urban agriculture has its origin in a 2,500-square-foot Vancouver garden"
Posted May 26, 2001

City Farmer's Grasscycling and Natural Lawn Care Project
"Once a week, a gentle pull of the lever starts the quiet machine - there's no gas or oil to mess with, no fumes to breathe in. A simple squeeze of the lever by the right front wheel adjusts the mower height and in minutes the lawn is cut, all the clippings are out of sight, blown as tiny pieces into the lawn where they will break down and nourish the grass."
Posted April 5, 2001

Results In! - The Best Food Garden In Vancouver Contest
Filled with, at different times, chicory, radicchio, basil, tomatoes, kiwis, figs, grapes, prunes, pears, and corn, Calogero's garden occupies two back yards and much of the front yard. It produces something different every week, says his daughter Lucy: "[My father] has been growing vegetables since he moved from Italy over 30 years ago. My mother makes enough tomato sauce for the family year-round, and sends some to my sister in Victoria."
Updated September 22, 2000

City Farmer's Demonstration Garden: Detailed Plan Showing Plants and Features
Collin Varner has drawn a beautiful plan of our garden showing exactly where everything is located. Posted August 28, 2000

City Farmer's Urban Agriculture Survey
Please help us learn more about your involvement in city farming by filling out this short survey form. Thank you!
Posted March 25, 2000

City Farmer's Survey Results - Second 100
See our summary. "14 people said they sold some food at farmer's markets, retail and wholesale, a coop, restaurants and caterers, traded food for services or other food, reinvested income back to an organization, sold eggs at work and to neighbours and friends."
Posted December 27, 2001

City Farmer's Survey Results - First 100
See our summary. "People from 16 countries submitted surveys - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Kuwait, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Spain and the USA. The vast majority were from the USA (56%) and Canada (26%)."
Posted May 20, 2000

Fall Harvest 2000, QuickTime 4 Movie of our Compost Garden
Join Sharon as she harvests food from our Demonstration Garden, including carrots, zucchini, asian vegetables, chard, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, beans, chick peas, grapes, apples, potatoes, loveage, sage and rosemary.

Made with a digital camcorder, a Mac computer and a Firewire cable, these clips are best viewed using a fast Internet connection, e.g. Cable or ADSL. Those with lesser speeds can let the file download slowly before playing it. Size 15.2 MB, length 1.41 minutes. You must have QuickTime 4 installed as well. Posted October 3, 2000

Photo Tour of City Farmer's Demonstration Garden
See it all! The vegis, the compost toilet, the worm corner, the office in a greenhouse, and much more. Posted November 3, 1999

Introduction to the Demonstration Garden
Many media events take place at our beautiful garden. Sesame Street shot a segment on worm composting. And the Mayor of Vancouver cut fresh artichokes before the cameras. Updated November 3, 1999

Head Gardener Wes Barrett Retires
A poem and a gift celebrate Wes's time at the Demonstration Garden. "I spent ten years at City Farmer trying to keep things organized, But now the phone lines are all twisted, and there's mice and rats and flies." Posted April 30, 2000



City Farmer's Garden Gate
Metal artist, Davide Pan has created a distinctive front gate for City Farmer's Demonstration Garden. Posted June 28, 1999

City Farmer's History: The First Ten Years 1978-1988
Filing cabinets, desks and high shelves of books overflow with a paper record of our efforts from the past 21 years. We have chosen various documents from this archive and placed them on the following pages to give the reader a brief glimpse of our past. Posted June 6, 1999

Staff Photos from Media Events
We always seem to be in the news. Take a close-up look at Wes, Spring, Ross, Gill, Beth, Lorenzo, Elaine and Mike. Posted May 14, 1999

The Christmas Tree Shredding Ceremony
"Look, all I'll say is this. People want to know that their trees' lives haven't been sacrificed in vain; that they've served a purpose greater than a light rack. Over the years, we've recycled hundreds of thousands of Christmas trees and their remains are composted in our yard trimmings composting facility here at the Landfill. That product is then spread around Vancouver parks and sold to landscapers and residents as a rich organic fertilizer. If that isn't a higher purpose, I don't know what is."
Posted December 29, 2001

Letters from Policy Makers in Canada to City Farmer - 1980
(And one from Britain, 1993.) "The Prince of Wales has asked me to thank you for your letter of 30th December, with which you enclosed a number of your recent publications and the poster. His Royal Highness was most interested to learn of all your achievements and was grateful to you for taking the trouble to write." Posted May 14, 1999

Red Celery In the Sunshine - An Urban Eden: transforming hopeless backyard hardpan into a lush organic plot
First published in 1984 in Harrowsmith magazine, this article describes City Farmer's Demonstration Food Garden. "I thought for years that just compost and the occasional load of manure were enough, and I had perfectly adequate gardens, but now, I'm not satisfied with adequate. I want Brassicas that are four feet high and three feet wide." said first Head Gardener, Catherine Shapiro. Posted May 6, 1999

Urban Non-Farm Food Production
In 1982 City Farmer presented this paper on Urban Agriculture to the Canadian Society for Horticulture Science and the Agricultural Institute of Canada. Posted May 5, 1999

City Farmer's Y2K Victory Garden
"Our first strategy is to grow plants during the summer and fall, which can be harvested and stored in a garage or basement for use in the new year. Remember, no one in Canada will be planting a food garden on New Year's Day, 2000. There will be snow and ice on the ground (cold rain in Vancouver) and the days will be short." Posted March 1, 1999

Grandpa's Victory Garden
"Altogether the produce from the Victory Garden supplied 6 families from the summer of 1941 onwards - my Uncle's family, Grandma and Grandpa, our family, my aunt's sister's family, and my other grandparents (they had no garden) and another elderly couple who lived nearby." Posted November 16, 1999

Victory Gardens: The Garden Warriors of 1942
In 1943, there were 209,200 Victory Gardens in Canada, and on the average they produced 550 lbs. of vegetables each. One gardener in seven was a city dweller.

City Farmer Newspaper 1978 -1981
"25 cents was the street price for our 'rag'. If a copy sold in a corner store we'd get half that back from the proprietor as our share. More often, we'd never find our way back to that store, and if we did, we'd find our paper had turned yellow with age." Posted May 13, 1998

We Have a Compost Toilet!
"But how do we use it", the staff wanted to know? "There's no water in the bowl, no handle for flushing. What can we throw in it, how do we keep track of how much human waste goes in, and what words should we use to describe our waste?" Posted November 12, 1998

Urban Home Composting, City Farmer Style
If all our urban organic waste was turned back into crop nourishing humus, think how fertile the ground would become.

Dealing With a Rat in a Compost Bin
An individual who calls the Compost Hotline is usually quite shocked that he has a rat on his property.

City Farmer/City Of Vancouver Wormshop Program
"Half a pound of writhing red wiggler worms are included in each worm "kit". The bin will accommodate up to 1500, so participants are encouraged to make up a second bin for themselves or a friend (they make excellent wedding gifts, shower gifts and Christmas presents!)."

More about the City's Distribution of Worm Bins!
Newsweek magazine, Feb. 12, 1996, reports "Entire cities are getting into the act. Vancouver sells worm bins, wrigglers included at half price." (Kitchen Help: Wrigglers Under the Sink, page 76)

Composting With Red Wiggler Worms
The great advantage of worm composting is that this can be done indoors and outdoors, thus allowing year round composting. It also provides apartment dwellers with a means of composting.

Jerry Seinfeld's Worm Bin
"What's The Deal With Worm Composting?"
Kramer's friend, a kooky zoology Professor at a New York museum, is leading a secret expedition into the sewers of New York to search for a new species of worm that will speed up the process of decomposition in the bin.

City Farmer Donates Garden Produce To Vancouver Hospice
"The visual appeal alone was enough to stimulate the resident's taste buds and heighten their interest in food. This is important, as often we have to work at tempting the appetites of our residents." Updated November 8, 1998

Mayor Opens Water-wise Garden
This unique water conservation garden was developed by the City of Vancouver, in cooperation with City Farmer. The project, funded by Environment Canada, demonstrates the principles of water-wise gardening. It is located on the street front and will be open to the public year-round. Updated August 22, 1998

Waterwise Gardening
City of Vancouver's Rain Barrel
Water-wise Demonstration Garden
Waterwise Watering Systems
Even in rainy Vancouver water-saving, gardening techniques are recommended for coping with summer droughts. City Farmer in cooperation with the City of Vancouver has opened a new public garden which demonstrates conservation methods such as contouring of the ground, soil conditioning using compost, collection of rain water, the use of native plants, and passive watering.

Vancouver Begins Disconnecting Downspouts
Disconnecting residential roof downspouts from the combined sewer system may be an important way to reduce water pollution caused by Combined Sewer Overflows.

In 1979, almost 20 years ago, City Farmer's founding directors spoke at the 20th International Science Education Symposium about our vision of Urban Agriculture.
"Ideally we believe that simply by changing from suit to jeans, digging up a bit of lawn, and planting vegetable seeds, the city person will begin asking questions about his environment and about his urban behavior and thinking patterns."

  • "To most city people soil is simply mud or dirt, not a substance in which food is born.
  • "Rain, means 'no beach'. It is not seen as a drink for thirsty plants.
  • "Sunny days are 'tanning days', not givers of food energy.
  • "There are no such things as 'beneficial insects'. They're all big game for a can of 'Raid'.
  • "Big toothed dogs are nice animals to feed. Egg producing chickens are not.
  • "Left-over food, minutes after a delicious meal, becomes garbage to be trucked away out of sight rather than a valuable homemade soil conditioner."

The Early Years at City Farmer 1978-1981
Report written in August, 1981 for Dr. Keith Wilde of Strategic Planning Division, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa

More About City Farmer's Work - Update December, 1996
  • Our Compost Hotline has received 17,000 calls since 1992.
  • 3000 visitors a year come to our Demonstration Garden.
  • Since 1992, City Farmer has taught 431 children's wormshops for a total of 9771 "contacts".

Food Crops We Grew In 1996
City Farmer's head gardener, Wes Barrett, demonstrates 12 month gardening at our Food Garden in Vancouver.

Arable Acres Within City Limits
It's amazing to discover that the City of Vancouver has enough land available so that its inhabitants can grow all their own vegetables within city limits.

Hope Springs Eternal: The 1984 American Community Gardening Conference
For many years, City Farmer was the only Canadian organization attending this important Urban Agriculture event. Posted April 27, 1999

Setting Up These Pages On The World Wide Web
City Farmer doesn't need a mailing list, a layout artist, a printer or publisher, a distributor, tons of paper or postage to produce this new publication. (This article was written in the early days of web publishing, May 1995, just a year or so ago. Much has changed. See following article.).

UPDATE: Setting Up Pages On The World Wide Web - A Case Study
This revised piece was originally published in the May 13, 1996 edition of Canada Internet Daily.

Funding an Office of Urban Agriculture
Some people assume that City Farmer is a government department and address their letters to "The Minister of Urban Agriculture".





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Revised August 26, 2007

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

cityfarmer@gmail.com