It takes a community to raise a garden

On October 31st at 10:00 AM, volunteers are gathering at 700 East Hastings and Hawks Avenue in Strathcona to create the raised bed garden boxes necessary to convert five empty asphalt covered lots into an urban garden that will provide food, employment, and training opportunities for inner-city residents.

If you are interested in contributing to the greening of Vancouver’s inner-city we need volunteers and tools and materials, contact Seann Dory of United We Can for the latest list of what we need. Part of this project involves a mural which will include permanent recognition of the groups that made SOLEfood a reality.

700 East Hastings

This garden raising represents the culmination of months of work by a dedicated subset of the Green Inner-city Cluster. The property belongs to the owner of the Astoria Hotel who is letting us convert it to a garden in exchange for paying the taxes for the next couple years. We need to begin the conversion this month in order to be eligible for lower taxes.

Artist Rendering

Artist Rendering

Save Our Living Environment is a sister organization to United We Can which was selected to be the lead organization for our first grant application. From there we got the name SOLEfood for our first urban agriculture project. Today’s coverage in the Metro and on Projects In Place’s blog neglected to mention the financial and organizational support of a number of key partners:

Come out and help us make Vancouver the Greenest City in the World, starting with Hawks and Hastings.


More Resilience

I keep getting asked how the conference went and I think if they really want to reduce consumption by 80% they have to invite to the table some of the people they vilified and poked fun at, the oil companies, the car companies, the mining companies. Vancouver may not have the former, but they have the latter, where were the Teck-Comicos, the Barricks? They talked about green tech and investment but I didn’t see any of those folks represented, where was Pangea or Day4Energy?

If you want to reduce consumption by 80% and make Vancouver the Greenest City in the World they are going to have to engage with the aforementioned corporations and many more. After all they all call Vancouver home and so do their staff.

Here is more coverage and commentary that my Google Alerts found:

Resilient Cities Roundup

The conference has ended, the booths have been taken down, the speakers are heading home. All that remains are the reflections, the calls to action, the manifestos.

Stephen Rees has written a lengthy piece on the GCAT recommendations released at the conference, particularly around public spaces and public transit.

Volunteer Corey Burger’s account of Day One, particularly the afternoon session we were both at around ethical purchasing. No mention of BOB, the SPP, or the CBA….

Moura Quayle has written an account of her participation in the conference and surrounding events. She also concentrates on the release of the GCAT report.

Guttersnipe has a roundup of the first day’s major speakers including the mayors of both Portland and Vancouver plus Paul Hawken and someone from one of Oregon’s most famous companies, Nike.

The conference also had an official blog on which includes a lot of the comments that were made on Twitter. had a couple posts including this summation of the keynote given by Paul Hawken, sustainability visionary, on day one.

Translink scored an interview with a speaker from New York’s Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Kahn.

One last account of Day One, by Kristina on Therapy for my Sustainable Soul.

That’s enough for now, more reflective pieces will undoubtedly emerge. Hopefully all the talk leads to some action, the Green Inner-city Cluster is committed to bringing urban agriculture to the inner-city of Vancouver and will soon put out an official call for support.

Gaining Ground?

Sometimes I’m not so sure. Our booth at the resilient cities conference has been less than successful. We have just been positioned too far from the main door off in the corner, plus half the time they divide the room making it completely inaccessible. The Web 2.0 website and BC’s historic sites’ booth are of similar size to BOB’s but positioned right next to the main entrance. I’m sure they’ve given out more brochures and card’s than us off in a corner have.

More successful was our shoulder event which got exposure online and in the conference package though could have been slightly better attended. We got some good ideas on what to do once our proposed urban agriculture project on the 700 block of East Hastings is up and running, but we still need a lot of help getting over the final hurdles. I’m going to have to talk it over with the team and the team’s bosses, but we might be putting out an all points bulletin for labour, materials, and expertise to build raised bed garden boxes one day real soon now.

If you want to see resilient cities, or Vancouver become the Greenest City in the World, or would like to see the DTES become a nicer place and for the people hanging out on Hastings and Main to have good jobs, please get in touch soon as the BC Land Assessment conversion date is fixed and rapidly approaching.

On day three of the conference I’m going to work more on making one to one connections, but first something for the blogosphere. It was a bit ironic today that I was sitting alone for a while in the dinning room and when the VIPs came in, I actually personally knew a couple of them, close enough to have their personal email (Hi Mike, Hi Majora). You might recall who brought Majora Carter to town the first time she was in Vancouver.

I’m once again in Mink Chocolate Cafe enjoying a mocha and their WiFi and I just finished directing tourists to Granville Island. The conference has crammed in a lot of speakers and you can only go to one salon a day, there are much fewer shoulder events this evening, Tuesday night may have been the high point. Next year I’d like to see a little more down time for networking, maybe one fewer speaker per morning, there doesn’t seem to be a reception this evening as many speakers from yesterday such as both Mayors have likely left town.

The Mayor of West Vancouver was very much at the Media that Matters session and she needs help in convincing other local mayors to support a more expansive view of public transport here in the Metro region and she is really worried that the last 36 hours will be meaningless as the status quo, despite the conference and calls by Bill Rees and Anita Burke will be maintained or the the expenditure on public transit could even be lowered. She wishes others in the GVRD to lobby their mayors to support a transit plan looking forward 100 years to a post peak oil, to a post petro-chemical dependent economy and invest in public transit now.

Semi-Regular Green News

There was another lengthy piece on Sadhu Aufochs Johnston in the Vancouver Sun which is of course available online. The most relevant quotation and why Google Alerts likely found it, is as follows:

Still, he sees possibilities for driving a green agenda into Vancouver’s grittiest areas, such as the Downtown Eastside.

We’ve been working on this, some of us for years, and our latest efforts are turning an empty lot at the 700 block of East Hastings into an urban agriculture project, which we will be discussing tomorrow night at the ideas jam. And I just heard from Seann that we need to come up with $5000 cash ASAP as part of conversion of the land for tax purposes…

Tomorrow is the official start of the Gaining Ground conference here in Vancouver, but there is early coverage in the Vancouver Sun and at least one official shoulder event tonight.

In town for the conference is Portland’s mayor Sam Adams, he and Vancouver’s mayor Gregor Robertson have signed an alliance and plan to recruit Seattle and potentially San Francisco to form a new version of Cascadia. This alliance will work on maintaining the eco-system of the area and use their combined buying power to do bulk purchases. Maybe we can finally get rapid train service or even just decent train service North and South.

Urban Agriculture Ideas Jam

A Building Opportunities with Business Gaining Ground Shoulder Event

When: Tuesday, October 20, 2009, from 7:00 – 10:00 pm
Where: Century House, 432 Richards Street (between Pender and Hastings)

When discussing resilient cities the topic of urban agriculture inevitably emerges. An exciting project in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside aims to convert an asphalt parking lot into an urban agriculture project by the end of the year. Join Building Opportunities with Business, in collaboration with the Vancouver Design Nerds and the Vancouver Public Space Network for an inspiring brainstorming session in a social setting. Learn about innovative urban agriculture projects and contribute your ideas on how this parking lot can be turned into a viable city farm and employment incubator.

Please RSVP via facebook or by email to Andrew McKay

700 East Hastings

This event is directly related to the SOLEfood project which would take empty lots at 700 East Hastings and turn them into an urban agricultural project. Here is a version of the project vision we drafted:

An urban farm in the Downtown Eastside being tended by residents, producing food for residents, providing employment and training for residents, and contributing to the economic revitalization of the area.
Project Goals & Objectives

  1. Transform empty lot in to an urban farm
  2. Train inner-city residents for employment in agriculture
  3. Produce fresh healthy food for consumption in the inner-city
  4. Employ residents in the construction and ongoing operation of the urban farm
  5. Contribute to the economic revitalization by bringing in capital from the sales of goods and services
  6. Advance urban farming in Vancouver and provide inspiration and insight for others

Desired Outcome

  1. Train over a dozen inner-city residents
  2. Employ residents seasonally in urban agriculture
  3. Plant and tend to a half acre of above ground planters
  4. Achieve financial sustainability for the day to day operation of an urban farm
  5. Develop value added products and services through leveraging urban agriculture expertise
    • Landscaping & garden setup services
    • Canned value added product such as salsa
  6. Replicate success of SOLEfood elsewhere in Vancouver or another urban locale

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