Rooftop Food Garden – YWCA Vancouver, BC, Canada
Up five floors at the YWCA in downtown Vancouver, amongst skyscrapers, is a spectacular rooftop food garden. Our two videos feature an interview with Ted Cathcart, Operations Manager and Rooftop Food Gardener at the YWCA.
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Downtown Deck Turned Into Fruit-and-vegetable Patch to Feed Needy
Andy Ivens, The Province
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Stand on any street corner in downtown Vancouver and it’s easy to spot a BlackBerry.
But you need to take an elevator to the roof of the YWCA Health plus Fitness Centre to spy blackberries — the fruit that grows on bushes, not the hightech cellphones glued to so many ears — in a patch with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
Surrounded by skyscrapers, a handful of hardy volunteers till the soil and cultivate an organic rooftop garden to feed families in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.
Ted Cathcart, YWCA’s facilities manager, got the idea to turn the decorative flower garden on the roof of the Hornby Street edifice into a more productive enterprise.
“When Bentall Five [the office building immediately to the west of the YWCA] was completed, it became less interesting to be up here,” Cathcart said yesterday as he showed off his cornucopia amidst the concrete.
So, in his spare time, he began turning the flower beds into vegetable gardens.
In 2006, the first year of the conversion to a food garden, Cathcart and crew harvested 150 kilograms of produce.
Last year, as more beds were added, that haul ballooned to 450 kilograms.
“The goal is to grow one tonne of food. That’s my ‘one-tonne challenge,’ ” said Cathcart.
“That could take another three to five years.
“What we’re looking at is rotational crops — things that can be grown quickly, then get it out of there so we can plant something else in the space.”
Cathcart has been loading the produce into his car and driving it the 14 blocks to the YWCA’s Crabtree Corner community kitchen on East Hastings Street, where the staff turned it into nutritious meals for deserving families five days a week.
Yesterday marked the inaugural run using a specially designed bicycle and cart donated to the cause by PEDAL, a non-profit organization.
“The YWCA supports the garden by providing a budget, if we need to buy anything,” said Cathcart.
“But we’ve been very lucky so far. We’ve had a lot of our plants and seeds donated by various companies,” said Cathcart.
“And we’ve had support from the University of British Columbia and the Environmental Youth Alliance.”
Cathcart said there are 15 to 18 volunteers who do the planting, watering and harvesting of the garden, but unlike a normal community garden, no one takes home the produce.