Great urban gardening and sustainability workshops July 11th

This post originally appeared in the Building Opportunities with Business Blog.

Strathcona proves once again that it’s fast becoming one of the funnest and most forward thinking parts of the city! I read the newsletter from Strathcona & Cottonwoods Gardens regarding their upcoming open house on July 11th and I figured it was so good that I’d just paste it in full into the BOB blog. Please pass the word on about these great open house events!

Magical Gardens in the midst of the city: Sunday July 11th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on July 11th you can visit eight magical acres, sway to live music with Tambai Marimba, learn from free gardening & sustainability workshops, see one of Vancouver’s oldest off-grid solar houses, eat scrumptious goodies, sample local garden honey, snatch wonderful plants at bargain prices, & celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Vancouver’s first community garden and the opening of Cottonwood’s new garden (the first community garden fully accessible for seniors and people with disabilities!)  Everyone is welcome!

Strathcona & Cottonwood Gardens Annual Open House takes place at

Prior/Hawks * Raymur/Malkin

For more info call (604) 608-0384 or (604) 253-3384 or visit their sites: or

Open House Events

Live Music!  Tambai Marimba!  Fiddlers!

Sway to the music of awesome fiddlers or dance your socks off with Tambai Marimba, Vancouver’s great youth Marimba Band. Tambai Marimba: Cottonwood Garden, 10:30am to 1:30pm.  Fiddlers: Strathcona Garden, 11am to 2pm.

Free Gardening & Sustainability Workshops

How to Keep Chickens in Your Backyard for Complete Beginners/Southland Farms: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am

Thinking about having your own chickens and fresh eggs?  Jordan Maynard, Manager of Southlands Heritage Farm, will help you understand the basics of keeping chickens in your backyard.  You’ll leave this workshop with the confidence to buy, care for, and enjoy your own backyard hens.  Workshop organized by Village Vancouver.

Permaculture/Vancouver Permaculture Meet-up Group: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am

Permaculture is an important way of letting the earth take care of itself.  Learn basic permaculture techniques from the Vancouver Permaculture Meet-up Group.  Workshop organized by Village Vancouver.

Winter Gardening/Grants Gourmet Gardens: Sunday, July 11, 1pm

Want to have fresh vegetables from your own garden year round?  Certified organic farmer & edible landscaper, Grant Watson, will teach you the basics of what/when to plant, so you can harvest from your garden in the coldest season.  Workshop organized by Village Vancouver.

Corsage Making: Sunday, July 11, 12-2

Learn how to make corsages from flowers and leaves picked that morning at Cottonwood. You can have a corsage custom-made for you, make your own, or choose one that has been made.

Compost Making/City Farmer: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am-2pm

Learn how to make compost from City Farmer’s Compost Hotline Staff.

Birdhouse Making for Kids: Sunday, July 11

This hands-on workshop teaches kids how to make their own birdhouse.  Each participant will be able to make and keep a wooden birdhouse they have made.

Bee-keeping demonstration: Sunday, July 11, 10-2

Bee-keepers from each garden will demonstrate basic bee-keeping techniques and teach people about bees and their needs.

Solar Eco-House Demo: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am – 2pm, Strathcona Community Garden

See Strathcona’s wonderful solar house.  This garden house generates its own power with solar panels, re-uses all its water with a grey-water recovery system, was built with recycled materials, and has a licensed composting toilet.  Built over 20 years ago by teenage women learning carpentry skills, this is one of Vancouver’s oldest off-the-grid houses.

Magical Oasis in the Midst of the City: Garden Tours

Please join us for tours of Vancouver’s oldest community gardens, as we celebrate 25 years of community building, local food production and sustainability.  Recipient of a City of Vancouver Heritage Award, Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens feature eight magical acres with 350 individual garden plots; countless varieties of native and exotic perennials; one of the largest collections of heirloom apple trees in BC; thriving honeybees; a solar house that generates its own power, recycles water, and has a licensed composting toilet; beautiful water gardens, terraced gardens, oval gardens, fragrant gardens, reflecting ponds; an Asian garden, native garden, permaculture garden, wetlands; cherry, apple, plum, mulberry, fig, pear, persimmon & Asian pear trees; blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, Saskatoon berries, gooseberries, grapes & kiwis; eight types of bamboo; nut trees; and many ornamental trees and shrubs.  There are two solar greenhouses; toolsheds; extensive composting; and many species of birds, butterflies and hummingbirds.  A pair of bald eagles nests overhead. Garden Tours: 10:30am to 1:30pm, at Strathcona and Cottonwood Gardens

Cutting Edge Sustainability: Solar House

Strathcona’s Eco-house is a model of sustainable building.  This garden house generates its own power with solar panels, re-uses all its water with a grey-water recovery system, was built with recycled materials, and has a licensed composting toilet.  Built over 20 years ago by teenage women learning carpentry skills, this is one of Vancouver’s oldest off-the-grid houses. Learn how the eco-house was built, principles of grey water recovery, solar power: 10am to 2pm, Strathcona Garden.

Wonderful Plant Sale!  Bargain Prices!  Great Plants!

Strathcona & Cottonwood’s Annual Plant Sale features an incredible variety of plants at bargain prices including perennials, vegetables, heirloom fruit trees & berry bushes, bamboo, flowers, shrubs, native plants, shade lovers, sun lovers & more!  All of the plants are grown by our gardeners or donated by local nurseries.  Prices are awesome and the range is impressive.  Over 600 plants at bargain prices.

Plant sale starts at 10am, Sunday, July 11, at Strathcona Community Garden (corner of Prior & Hawks).

Opening of New Garden Fully Accessible for Seniors and People with Disabilities: 11:30am

Join us as we celebrate the opening of this new ¾ acre inclusive garden that is designed to enable everyone, regardless of age or physical ability, to garden.  Based on the principles of universal design, the garden features raised beds that are high enough for seniors and people with disabilities to garden from a seated position; pathways 3-4’ wide and surfaced with a firm surface appropriate for persons with walkers, canes, strollers and wheelchairs; water taps at a convenient height for people who have difficulty bending and close to raised beds so that carrying a hose will not be needed; a tool shed with easy access and reachable tools; meeting spaces with wide-enough, smooth surfaces.

Official Opening of New Accessible Garden: 11:30am.  This new part of Cottonwood is along Raymur, at the corner of Raymur & William, across from the Food Bank, on the east side of Strathcona Park.

Honey!  Local Bees!

Honey sales from our own bees, who thrive on the diversity of flowering plants in our gardens.  The honey is fresh, local, and delicious.  Come early!  The honey usually sells quickly.  Honey Sales: 10am at Strathcona Garden and at Cottonwood Garden.

Silent Auction
If you haven’t been to our Silent Auction before, you’re in for a visual treat.  Beautiful hanging baskets with fuchsias in full bloom, heritage apple trees, and a stunning Passion Flower vine, to name but a few of the entries we’ve had — all generous donations from local nurseries and gardeners.  Come and check it out and maybe you’ll go home with a spectacular plant to highlight your garden or patio.  Sunday, July 11, Strathcona Garden, 10am to 1pm.

Native Plant Tour
Come to the Native Garden at Cottonwood and we’ll show you which BC native plants you can grow to replace some of the invasive plants that have come into BC.  Sunday, July 11, 10-2.


Strathcona Garden & Cottonwood Garden are sister gardens located next to each other in and next to Strathcona Park., on the east side of Vancouver, on Prior Street, between Main & Clark.

Strathcona Garden is located just west of Strathcona Park, on Prior & Hawks.

Cottonwood Garden is located along the south side of Strathcona Park, on Malkin, between Raymur & Hawks.

The new accessible garden expansion is on Raymur, opposite the Food Bank (1150 Raymur).

The two gardens host the Open House together

More Information about Strathcona & Cottonwood Gardens

Strathcona & Cottonwood Community Gardens are the oldest community gardens in Vancouver, and are an awesome story of what people in the community can do to transform the urban landscape.  These beautiful eight acre gardens were built on dump sites — a massive community effort transformed the land into a magical oasis & self-help organic food centre in the midst of the city.  Hundreds of volunteers composted new soil, laid water pipes, built a recycled off-grid solar house with grey water recovery & a composting toilet, designed & built over 300 garden plots, built 3 solar greenhouses, and planted an amazing collection of native trees & bushes, heirloom fruit trees, berry bushes, perennials, etc.  There are terraced gardens, oval gardens, fragrant gardens, water gardens, a permaculture garden designed/maintained by young people, a native garden, Asian garden, the largest collection of heirloom apple trees in BC, wetlands, honey bees, and many species of birds, butterflies and hummingbirds.  A pair of bald eagles nests overhead.

The July 11 Open House will be very special as Strathcona celebrates 25 years of community building, local food production and sustainability, and Cottonwood opens a new accessible garden expansion, which will be fully accessible for seniors and people with disabilities.

Strathcona’s 25th anniversary is a watershed for community gardens throughout the city.  When people started Strathcona, the concept of community gardens in Vancouver did not exist and there was a lot of resistance to the idea.  It took a lot of hard work and struggle to get the gardens to happen and to eventually have gardens all over the city.

Community gardens all over the city did not spring out from nowhere, but from the work and support of many people.  Community gardens are now not only accepted, but the City and the Park Board have had to develop policy around it because of the great demand for community gardens throughout the city. We can all be proud of contributing to that.

Cottonwood’s new accessible expansion is the first truly integrated accessible community garden in Vancouver, which will enable seniors and people with disabilities to participate in community gardening and will make a real difference to many people.  Based on the principles of universal design, the garden features accessible raised beds that are high enough for seniors and people with disabilities to garden from a seated position; pathways 3-4’ wide and surfaced with a firm surface appropriate for persons with walkers, canes, strollers and wheelchairs; water taps high enough for access & close to plots so that carrying a hose will not be needed; a tool shed with easy access and reachable tools; meeting spaces with wide-enough, smooth surfaces.

There are hundreds of community gardens in Vancouver, but seniors and people with disabilities are often not able to garden in them simply because they are not properly designed and have barriers.  Paths between plots are too narrow for wheelchairs to pass, beds are in the ground or too low or wide for people with disabilities to reach, water taps are too low, path surfaces are too bumpy or sloped, tool sheds cannot be entered etc.  Seniors face similar issues bending to the ground, to taps, carrying heavy hoses, etc.  Even in existing gardens where there are raised beds, the paths are often covered with inaccessible surfaces like bark mulch or gravel, so seniors and people with disabilities are segregated from the rest of the gardeners.

This special new garden is designed to change that and will enable everyone, regardless of age or physical ability, to garden and be part of all garden activities.  It will thus make a significant difference to many people.

For more information about the marvellous July 11 Open House

Please call (604) 608-0384 or (604) 253-3384

or email

or visit or


Urban aquaculture, coming to Vancouver soon?

I spent this weekend in Victoria where my wife and I, along with friends and family, joined the last leg of the Get out Migration. The migration was led by legendary environmental activist Alexandra Morton who set out from Sointula, 500 kilometers north of Victoria, on April 23rd to lead a human migration that honored the yearly runs of BCs wild pacific salmon. These runs have been increasingly threatened by environmental degradation and habitat destruction on BCs coast. Many leading marine biologists, sport fishermen and Morton herself believe the greatest source of degradation and habitat destruction comes from the Norwegian owned open net cage farms; breeding grounds for sea lice with as much sewage-like waste output as your average BC city.  As recent pilot projects have proven, a viable alternative exists, and this alternative may create opportunities for urban economic stimulus and job creation too.

These tanks designed by Canada's Agri Marine, can hold up to 50,000 trout

A recent study suggests that not only will we have to move to closed containment to allow our marine ecosystems to heal, but it will also be a sustainable and profitable move.  Growing Power have already proven that aquaponics is a feasible practice on a smaller and medium scale while a larger scale closed containment aquaculture project in China launched just this past December has piqued interest world wide. Canadian company AgriMarine created the technology being used for the fish farm in China where 50,000 trout are currently housed, needless to say, some Canadians are now asking why their own technology found a home in China before it did here?

Another project that Vancouver (and BC) may consider drawing inspiration from is Cityscape in San Francisco. Cityscape, an urban agriculture organization in San Francisco is looking to create market-scale aquaponics operations (that include fish) in the Bay Area -south San Francisco in particular. Restaurants, keen to include locally sourced and sustainably farmed products are apparently eager to support this initiative. Go here for a great article on Cityscape and the impossible logic of urban food production.

So can we imagine a Vancouver where urban agriculture and aquaculture contribute to our world class dining culture? I sure can. One word sums it all up for me FRESH.

It’s a fresh idea that will create fresh new jobs, and of course year round fresh food. And let’s not forget the extra fresh air we’ll all enjoy from a decreased need to truck industrial foods from one end of the continent to the other!

For more information on the exciting urban farming initiatives here in Vancouver you can also visit these sites:



UBC Farm

Projects in Place

Environmental Youth Alliance

A green roof economy: the fourth agricultural revolution?

Whoa Wes! That’s a bit of a stretch now isn’t it? Well, maybe, but who got anywhere by thinking small? (Aside from nano-scientists).

When one thinks of all the arable land that we’ve paved over, or otherwise rendered unusable, it might seem like a staggering amount. Concrete jungles like New York, Mumbai and Tokyo extend as far as the eye can see with parking lots, buildings and freeways, but urban development only accounts for 2% of covered arable land. (Simmonds, I G (1989), Changing the Face of the Earth: Culture, Environment, History, Blackwell, Oxford, UK.) Yes that’s right, I’m actually going to reference books in this post, shocking I realize. When one thinks about how many mega cities we see sprawling over the horizon (over 400 cities with populations above 1 million), combined with the fact that we’re seeing a continued global migration to these cities one might worry that even more arable land will come under threat; but cities are actually a far more efficient and less environmentally damaging organizational structure than many might think. They’re compact, often vertical, and efficiently designed along grids, or with clear pathways and economical correlations of related services and goods.  However, cities also act like a vacuum, sucking in resources and using vast external parcels of land to create food, rubber, clothing, energy and everything else needed to keep them running. This is what we’ve come to consider more closely over the past fifteen or so years, thanks to the creative and groundbreaking concept of the Ecological Footprint (no pun intended).The Ecological Footprint concept originated right here in Vancouver in fact,  through the research of UBC professor William Rees and then graduate student Mathis Wackernagel.

The real challenge with cities isn’t so much the 2% of land they take up, it’s that roughly 40% of the rest of the Earth’s land surface is presently used for cropland and pasture to feed these cities. This is an estimated 1.3 × 107 km2 of cropland and 3.4 × 107 km2 of pastureland. And every day the produce and livestock from this 40% takes a huge amount of energy in the form of fossil fuels (to maintain operations, to fertilize) and then gets carted away (using more fossil fuels) far away, to where an increasingly urbanized population awaits it. So where’s the most efficient place to start solving the problem? The 40% of supporting land or the 2% itself where those resources end up? I think the answer is pretty clear, and this is why the head of campaigns for the World Wildlife Fund, Colin Butfield, stated that “The battle for the environment will be won or lost in our cities“.

In the final analysis, if the reader will excuse my oversimplification of our relationship with nature, what we need from the environment is water, food and shelter (and some would argue its awe inspiring beauty!). I take this to mean that if these things we need from the environment to survive are as such, and the battle for this will be won or lost in our cities then the only battle option we really have is full surrender. We’ve proven that we can’t beat the environment, so we might as well join it. Our cities cannot just take sustenance, they have to give it, becoming the environment itself from which we draw our energy and food. The separation of urban and agricultural spaces can’t likely continue without drastic consequences. And more and more people have come to realize this.

Urban agriculture was once an idea passionately held by a few, now it’s one passionately held by many. And that support is growing fast as the aesthetic value of green roofs and quality of produce and goods grown from urban agriculture has continued to contributed to the increasing livability and enjoyability of city-life. So does this mean another agricultural revolution is brewing? Is this once radical idea now becoming the norm in western society? I’d wager to say that because of the leadership of cities like Chicago, New York, Portland and Vancouver, that is more a possibility than ever. In fact, it has been the norm in many European cities for decades now.

We’ve given a lot of attention to SOLEfood inner-city farm here on the GTIC blog lately, and deservedly so, as urban agriculture is gaining momentum in Vancouver thanks to initiatives like SOLEfood.  The build out of the 2nd SOLEfood farm on the rooftop parkade of 211 East Georgia St. (this Saturday May 8th) will create the second intensive food producing parcel of land in this growing urban network of farms, and this one is  a rooftop project.

Uncommon Ground, a fantastic restaurant in Chicago with its own 100% certified organic rooftop vegetable farm

Rooftop farms in Chicago and other major cities have also become increasingly popular, growing quality fresh food right in the middle of the market. It’s estimated that the urban spaces we’ve created can produce enough food to feed nearly 100 million people  (Simmonds ,1989) but this is a high benchmark, in reality the number would likely be smaller as not every owner of a commercial building or home necessarily wants a farm or green roof, let alone a farm roof, and not every parking lot will be transformed into cropland. It’s estimated that 30% of Vancouver’s urban space is take up by buildings, meaning 30% of its space has a potentially usable rooftop to grow green media or even food, how much brownfield and abandoned lot space can we add to that?  So maybe we can make Simmonds’ number a more realistic 30 to 40 million if we use Vancouver’s percentage of rooftop space (and an undetermined estimate of brownfield/lot space) as a benchmark.  This is a blog post, not a thesis, so forgive some of the speculation but I’m concerned with both facts and the ideas too at this point, the productive capacity of urban farming is only one component or benefit attached to these ideas.

Growing food in urban places has numerous other benefits beyond adding to total food volume on the market, that help to reduce strain on our planet and its resources.

Growing food directly where the market is situated eliminates the need for fossil fuels to be used in transportation, and it encourages growers to use sustainable organic farming techniques as crop yields are smaller, eliminating the need for industrial fertilizers, crop dusting, and other forms of agro-chemical management; which would not be allowed in densely populated areas anyhow (or so we would hope).

Because the food grown is closer to market it also eliminates the need for preservatives, waxes, wrapping and packaging and will drastically reduce spoilage from transportation or storage. Further to this, a mixed media farm roof, just like a green roof, will also reduce noise pollution, filter particulate matter in the air, cool a building in the summer and keep it warmer in the winter and make urban spaces that much more attractive. To what extent though, needs to be studied in a similar way that green roofs have recently been. And if  the transformation of our urban spaces takes place on the level it will likely need to, in order to reduce our footprints and make our cities sustainable, then massive potential for economic activity and job creation exists. Will this be the fourth agricultural revolution? A green roof economy? A new era of utilitarian urban ecology?  Some other fancy shmancy overly academic term?

Only if more people continue to get involved!

So if you’d like to get involved with urban agriculture and join the revolution come down to the SOLEfood urban farm network’s build out of the newest farming space in our city, atop 211 East Georgia Street, the afternoon of Saturday May 8th, 1:30 to 4:30.

For more information on Green Roofs.

More information on urban agriculture. And here too.

More information on green collar jobs.

For more information on Vancouver’s Innner-City

The White House organic food garden expanding, Vancouver’s SOLEfood is too!

This Easter holidays Michelle Obama expanded on an already ambitious urban farming initiative in Washington D.C., the one in the White House back yard, as students from Bancroft Elementary and Hollin Meadows Elementary joined the first lady for a day of gardening and planting to start the Easter Weekend last Wednesday. The organic gardening initiative also ties in with a comprehensive health and fitness initiative that the First Lady is championing called Let’s Move, aimed at solving the childhood epidemic of obesity in America within a generation. Renowned urban agriculturalist (and MacArthur Genius Fellow) Will Allen was on hand for the launching of this initiative and spoke, along with the First Lady, on the importance of nutrition, food security and the powerful role that urban farming can play. And with that it give me delight to announce that Will Allen will be  speaking in Vancouver Tuesday July 13 from 7-9pm at the Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive (off 14th Ave). Register ASAP as his previous speaking engagement sold out.

As was noted in a previous post, Mr. Allen needed to undergo surgery and was unable to make that previous speaking engagement, part of the SFU Centre for Dialogue’s Growing out of Hunger series, late last month.  We’re excited that he was able to reschedule so quickly. He will be visiting a city where urban farming, along with other green initiatives, definitely enjoys momentum.

In addition to the dozens of community gardens in Vancouver, the SOLEfood inner city farm network will be expanding this spring to incorporate a second site in Chinatown. Further to beautifying and greening urban spaces one of the attributes of the SOLEfood network that makes it unique from many of the other community gardens is its focus on food production, much like the White House garden. The farm on Hawks and Hastings continues to provide training, education and employment opportunities for residents of Vancouver’s inner-city while providing a valuable service to the community. Good, healthy and wholesome food.

More information about the SOLEfood inner-city farm network’s second location will be posted on the Greening the Inner-City Blog soon!

For more information on Michelle Obama’s White House garden check out the White House Blog.  For more information on Will Allen and Growing Power visit Growing Power’s website.

The future of the greening the inner-city blog

Yesterday the Green Inner-city Cluster met at BOB’s offices.  Many were disappointed that Will Allen’s visit to Vancouver had to be canceled due to a medical issue.  We all wish Will Allen a speedy recovery and hopefully he’ll get up to Vancouver another time, we’d love to show him what we’re doing with urban agriculture here.

At the meeting we went over our current initiatives, the most famous of which is the SOLEfood Urban farm.  The inner-city farmers have completed training with help from such folks as Ward Teulon and Michael Ableman.  Most of the boxes are completely built, not sure about the covers (high tunnels) to lengthen the growing season.  SOLEfood needs equipment and materials still so a public call for them is being echoed on this blog.

The other topic that was heavily discussed is e-waste, which will be dealt with in a future post in more depth.

We also talked about the future of this blog.  It was created almost a year ago, and since then Majora Carter has visited Vancouver twice, we started an urban farm, we trained some inner-city residents in urban agriculture, we even helped promote a few conferences.  So what does the future hold for the Greening the inner-city blog?

That is still being determined, but the team behind the blog was strengthened.  The original group of people who stated an interest in writing about relevant themes and issues here only produced four actual authors of posts.  This was never intended to be the Green BOB Blog or heaven forbid the Green Muskblog.  So we’re going to reach out to find some more guest authors, as finding regular bloggers who will write for free and are knowledgeable and able to post regularly is difficult.  Our two biggest additions to the team are Wes Regan who has blogged for Techvibes among others and Emily Jubenvill of Small Feet.  So expect to see them authoring more posts in the future.

If you’re interested in writing a guest post or have a topic you think would be a good subject for a future post write  We are going to try even harder to stick to our chosen categories:

  • Construction – green buildings, sustainable communities, de-construction
  • Energy – conservation or alternative means to generation
  • Green Businesses – particularly local ones or best practices
  • Green Economy – both locally in Vancouver and over all
  • Green Jobs – locally but with the occasional big picture story or link
  • Green Space – local ones but also interesting urban green spaces worldwide
  • Recycling – which has proven particularly successful in the DTES
  • Waste Reduction – reducing consumption of everything other than energy

This discipline along with the general cleanness of our site and HTML code has apparently lead to our humble blog ranking well in Google for several keywords and phrases.  We will remain on topic as long as I’m still involved.  We also want the blog to be more interactive so expect us to respond to most comments and we’ll continue to cross promote this blog on various other sister sites.

Remember Sustainability 2.0

Saul Brown does. He also knew that some of the footage we recorded made it on to YouTube.  I hope someday more of the footage makes it online in some form.  Strathcona BIA is working on their next conference which they’ve dubbed Sustainability 2.010! I’m less involved this time personally, but with Will Allen coming to Vancouver and Majora Carter having already been here twice.  Resilient Cities: Vancouver, greening the inner-city, Green Capital, GCAT, Vancouver is definitely one of the North American leaders in sustainability, social purchasing, urban agriculture, urban architecture.  You know good stuff.

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