Tours of Urban Agriculture Sites in Vancouver, BC
City Farmer Welcomes the World Urban Forum 2006
Visitors coming to Vancouver have a wealth of interesting urban agriculture sites to visit. The following is a list of possible destinations. (Updates will occur throughout the year.) This list was prepared as part of a City Farmer paper for The Urban Agriculture Research Partners' Meeting: First Preparatory Workshop for the World Urban Forum (WUF) 2006 held in Toronto, August 28 - September 2, 2004.
The World Urban Forum will be held in Vancouver, Canada (City Farmer's home city) from 19 to 23 June, 2006. At City Farmer, we are already preparing to welcome visitors from around the world to our Demonstration Garden and show them the kinds of sustainable projects the City of Vancouver promotes.
Perhaps the most important sites, from City Farmer's perspective, are people's home gardens. Back lanes are useful for studying urban agriculture. They display the private back yards of homes, making it is easy to see what gardeners are growing. Gardeners are proud to show off their mini-farms and people from many cultures (eg. Greek, Italian, Latin American, Chinese) will share their horticultural secrets and perhaps serve guests tasty treats harvested from their gardens.
There are 21 municipalties in Greater Vancouver (GVRD) and a walk down any back lane will show what people are growing. 44% of people in Greater Vancouver live in households that produce some of their own food.
Map of Vancouver
The Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden
(City Farmer and City of Vancouver)
Started by City Farmer in 1982, the Demonstration Garden offers ideas to home gardeners. Now over 20 years old, it showcases a large organic food and flower garden, composting system, a waterwise garden, a permeable lane, rain barrels, a sump, a green roof, a compost toilet, sustainable buildings (cob, recycled lumber) - and other 'green technologies' that urban residents can incorporate into their own home landscapes. Funded by the City of Vancouver, the garden exemplifies the City's support for environmental conservation.
City Farmer's expert staff will provide a tour of the garden and explain to visitors why they promote urban agriculture in the city. They will also cook a delicious meal for WUF visitors in their clay oven.
Community Gardens in Vancouver
For urban residents who don't have back gardens, community or allotments gardens are popular, and Vancouver has a wide variety of them in many shapes and sizes. There are huge allotment gardens such as Burnaby (373 plots); Richmond (130 plots); and Strathcona (3 acres). There are small gardens in City parks such as Robson Park, Elizabeth Rogers, and McSpadden. There are gardens along boulevards and railway right-of-ways such as Cypress, Maple, and East Boulevard, and there are unusual linear gardens such as Cottonwood and Mole Hill.
Three Possible Tours:
Burnaby Community Garden (BARAGA)
7450 Meadow Road
373 plots (50 x 20 feet each)
Cottonwood Community Garden
see Environmental Youth Alliance EYA
800 block Malkin Street
Mole Hill Lane
(Community gardens and food landscaping all in a lane)
Lane between Comox and Pendrill, Bute and Thurlow surrounded by restored old Vancouver homes.
UBC Farm Tour
Down a back road, removed from most of the bustle of campus activity, is a real jewel - a university supported market garden.
The UBC Farm is a student-driven model farm integrating sustainable land management and food production practices with basic and applied research, innovation, education and community outreach."
"It includes a Farm Market selling salad mixes, radishes, kale, peas, beans, artichokes, basil, turnips, bok choy, carrots, various herbs, squashes, melons, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and many varieties of flowers all grown on campus."
Herb Garden on Hotel Roof
Vancouver has hundreds of "green" roofs, that is roofs that support grasses, native plants, flowers, etc. One roof, on the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, produces herbs that are used in fine cuisine.
"Annual food production - primarily herbs - saves the hotel an estimated $25,000 to $30,000 yearly in herb costs. Harvesting begins at the end of March with chives, pansies and sorrel, followed by tulips. In the summer, the gardeners take about four huge bus trays Ð about 50.8 cm x 30.5 cm x 10.2 cm (20 in. x 12 in. x 4 in.) deep Ð of herbs down to the kitchen each week and the chefs also harvest occasionally. Consumers include the hotel patrons and staff."
First Nations Plant Tour
Education Coordinator, Musqueam Band
The coordinator will point out local native plants in Vancouver that have been gathered and used by the Musqueam for traditional food, materials and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
"Mahli and Stsulawh, the two main villages of the Musqueam (Wh'rnuthkweyum "people of the grass"), were located at the mouth of the North Arm of the Fraser River, on the site of the current Musqueam Band reserve. The Musqueam have lived there for over 3,000 years, and Mahli and Stsulawh may have had a combined population of over 2,000 in the 18th century.
"While the region's early residents subsisted mainly on salmon, then smoking it for winter use, their other food sources were numerous. Deer, elk, bear and goat were hunted with bow and arrow, as were many types of birds, which might also be netted or snared. Seal, porpoise and sturgeon were taken with cleverly designed harpoons, the heads of which were tied to lines and separated from the shafts on contact. Shellfish were gathered, also fruit and berries, edible roots and the wapato or Indian potato, which grew beside the Fraser."
Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community School Yard
A number of school yards in Vancouver have food gardens where students can experience planting and harvesting. One school yard has incorporated a variety of learning gardens.
"The school's name, Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community School, reflects the region's rich cultural heritage. Now, the "Spirit of Nature" schoolyard proudly does the same. Graduate education student Illene Pevec and landscape architecture student Tracy Penner brought together students, parents, teachers, and community members to turn an underused, muddy, 1-acre field into a multigenerational, award-winning garden that celebrates and preserves local cultural history."
South-East False Creek Sustainable Village
Planning for this large-scale development has gone on for many years. Urban agriculture possiblities have been reviewed extensively for the site which will be ready for the 2010 Olympics.
Senior Planner Smith said "It's going to be the most cutting-edge, unique development in the world. It's taking a really comprehensive approach to sustainability. The project's energy-saving measures could include composting, low-flow faucets and shower heads, a non-motorized boat service, and "edible landscaping" through channelling rainwater onto rooftop gardens."
West Coast Seeds
Vancouver residents have a first class seed company within their city. Many urban food gardeners buy their vegetable seeds from Mary Ballon's West Coast Seeds.
"The wisdom of gardening used to be passed down in families and towns from generation to generation on well-known land that had been worked for years. The subtle changes in the weather, the soil, our plants and their habitats Ð- the bugs, worms, weeds, shadows, the presence or absence of water Ð this knowledge was once part of our family and community heritage. At West Coast Seeds we do all we can to replace that lost heritage. Top-quality seeds selected for this unique climate, our best instructions, ongoing research and information...."
Chinese Market Farmers - Big Bend in BurnabyJohn Jeavons, the author of How To Grow More Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops was amazed to see how intensive these market gardens were when he visited City Farmer in 1979. He saw traditional, Chinese raised bed agriculture taking place around houses, barns and in small fields right in the city.
Over a quarter of BC's farm income comes from agriculture inside the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). Some of Vancouver's most productive urban farms are in Burnaby's Big Bend area ... the Chinese owned vegetable fields. See more here: Most productive urban commercial farms located in Burnaby BC
Greenhouse Industry in Greater Vancouver
An impressive amount of food is grown under glass in Vancouver's state-of-the-art greenhouse industry.
- Number of greenhouses: 52
- Types of vegetables grown: more than five varieties of tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, mini peppers, long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers, and butter lettuce
- Total farm gate value of annual production: More than $250 million
- Total amount of B.C.'s farmland used: 0.01 percent
- Amount of herbicides used in greenhouses: None
- Number of months we produce vegetables: 10
- Amount of tomatoes produced by one of our greenhouses when setting the world record in 2002: 165 pounds per square metre.
- Average amount of vegetables produced using less space than your bathtub (per square metre) takes up: * Tomatoes: 143 pounds * Cucumbers: 113 cucumbers * Peppers: 55 pounds
BC Hot House greenhouses grow produce hydroponically in natural biodegradable materials such as wood chips. This method conducts air and water directly to plant roots. Growing hydroponically means not having to use toxic herbicides. It also means drastically reducing the need for pesticides by using biological controls -'good bugs' to fight 'bad bugs'. BC Hot House produce is virtually pesticide free.
Vancouver Landfill Gas Heats Greenhouses
Organic Farmers in Greater Vancouver
Within Greater Vancouver (21 municipalities) are many commercial farms both organic and non-organic. Visiting a farm is a great way to see how our food is produced for market.
B.C. Association for Regenerative Agriculture(B.C.A.R.A.)
And for markets and marketing of local food see
BC Association of Farmers' Markets Farmers' markets operate in every type of community across British Columbia: cities, suburbs and rural communities.
And if you travel from Vancouver to Victoria (a beautiful ferry ride), you can visit Lifecycles. LifeCycles works with all ages to create urban organic food gardens in people's backyards, balconies and rooftops. They also help to create community gardens and gardens for special needs. LifeCycles has both school and community based education programs to teach about food security, sustainable agriculture and urban agriculture.
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