Farming in the DTES

Although we’ve written a number of posts on the SOLEfood urban farm that the authors of this blog helped start and run, it wasn’t the first vacant lot in the inner-city to be planted, nor is it the only one.  Before we were ready to announce our full plans we consulted a number of people and photographed existing gardens and green spaces in the Downtown Eastside.  The Hastings Street Community Garden is probably the most well known, though there are a number of others which I photographed, including one beside the DTES Neighbourhood House.

Today an article about the history and purpose behind another garden appeared on the internet.  David Aupperlee describes himself as a full time urban farmer and works with the organization Jacob’s Well which is right down on Main Street not far from Hastings heading North.  Those of us behind the blog are delighted to read of their successful harvesting or organic vegetables and look forward to discussing techniques and future opportunities to increase the green economy, green jobs, and urban agriculture in the DTES.


Andrea Reimer on Greenest City Goals

Andrea just posted to Twitter and her blog how the city is doing on achieving their Quick Start Recommendations.  BOB, United We Can and many many others helped start an urban farm on Hastings Street which seeks to provide Green Jobs for inner-city residents, but obviously a lot more needs to be done.

SOLEfood in 2010

Work has been ongoing behind the scene. We have worked hard to expand our brain-trust through an advisory board. We’ve added more urban farming expertise in the form of Ward Teulon of City Farm Boy and Michael Ableman of Foxglove Farm.

We have been developing our training program for inner-city residents. We will have a public info session soon for folks interested in that. We will also be having a third build day. We’ve taken the advise from others and refined the layout of the farm. We are currently deliberating on what to grow. We have conflicting demands, we want to break even and provide income for inner-city residents, but we also want to provide some locally grown healthy food that is affordable for folks living in the inner-city.

We’ve even looked at adding another site, we are actively exploring two plots, but we may not have the resources to start a second or third farm with our first not even having produced a crop.

We plan on adding more growing space to SOLEfood and building some low tunnels to increase the growing season. We also will be transplanting seedlings rather than going from seed, we have a lot of logistical issues to work out in time for Spring.

Ward was recently the subject of a story by Francis Bula, in the Globe And Mail.

Green Jobs in the Inner-city Report

Green Jobs Report logoKristina Welch, at the Sauder Centre for Sustainability and Social Innovation, did a great job putting together a report, entitled Green Jobs in the Inner-city, connecting the emerging green economy to the inner-city context and highlighting opportunities for BOB.  Out of this report came the SOLEFood initiative and more.

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.

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.

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