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North Vancouver city considers plan for farms on boulevards

Presentation to the City Council of North Vancouver: Edible Boulevards – Professional Urban Agriculture

Edible Boulevards – Professional Urban Agriculture in North Vancouver

By Kim Davis
The Vancouver Sun, 25 Jul 2009
Kim Davis is a Vancouver environmental affairs consultant.

UBC lab is ‘trying to create something that doesn’t exist anywhere else’

From the Victory gardens of the last century’s two world wars to the community-garden movement started in the 1970s, urban agriculture has played an important role in the security of the food supply.

Metro Vancouver is no stranger to the urban harvest. According to City Farmer, 44 per cent of Vancouver’s population is involved in some form of urban agriculture.

When Vancouver city council passed a motion in 2006 to encourage the creation of 2,010 new garden plots by Jan. 1, 2010, a legacy for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, there were 950 plots in 18 gardens.

Today, there are more than 1,700 new plots in more than 40 community, or resident-shared, gardens. There are also 20 farmers’ markets.

Unlike gardens grown for and by private gardeners, gardens grown for commercial purposes have historically met resistance by urban authorities and planners. Considered relics of a rural past, they were either prohibited or severely restricted.

Times are changing. Environmental degradation, dwindling oil resources and increasing concerns over urban food security are among the causes.

Locally a proposal from the University of B.C.’s Greenskins Lab to the City of North Vancouver could soon bring your local farmer to a boulevard near you.

Alex Kurnicki, a city hall staff member, has the responsibility for preparing a recommendation on the proposal for city hall. He says that while city council will have the final word, and only after receipt of public response, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for the project.

The City of North Vancouver, by council’s passage of a 100-year sustainability vision, is already known, by those who would know these things, for its progressive approach to sustainable design and development.

“ When the Greenskins Lab came and made a presentation to a small group of staff and councillors, they made a very compelling argument,” Kurnicki says.

“This is yet another piece in the whole sustainability puzzle, one with which we could address a whole series of issues, including: Reducing our carbon footprint, providing more local food supply and security to the North Shore and providing employment.”

From derelict or otherwise under-used public land, rights of way, for example, or boulevards, the Greenskins Lab proposal would create an example of a diverse, productive and esthetically pleasing urban landscape.

Among some of the innovative components of the proposal are biointensive farming, on-site energy generation and rainwater harvesting.

“The model that the Greenskins Lab created is not a community garden; it is not a farm, and it is not park,” Kurnicki says. “They are trying to create something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

The public purpose of the proposal is a strong element in its champions’ advocacy.

“ What we can do with a boulevard is that we can create an urban farm and a social space that invites the public in to use these underutilized spaces, especially in higher-density urban areas,” says Karen Morton, a UBC sustainability-management student and Greenskins Lab volunteer.

“It is also a way of creating green jobs to support the local economy, and a way of helping people get back in touch with the growing of our food.”

After seeing images of similar projects in France and China, City of North Vancouver councillors were particularly impressed by the design and esthetic considerations of the Greenskins proposal.

“ It can be made to be a beautiful display garden that people can stroll [through], enjoy and have a sit, while they see people working and producing profit,” says Kurnicki.

The proposal is not without its challenges. Competing interests, the need for open space, for example, and conflicts with existing covenants and regulations are some of the issues that face the project.

“The complicated part is making it fit onto the legal stuff,” Kurnicki says. “It is very exciting for us; for the city and me personally.

“Planning staff will also be working with Greenskins to find a way of meshing this new era of sustainability, addressing issues such as food security, with the existing world of zoning, land title restrictions, and other public needs.” As Julian Taylor, of Legacy North Shore notes, ‘‘given all of the assets that we have as a society here [in Vancouver], we ought to be leading the world in green and sustainable living.”

See Kim Davis’s article North Vancouver city considers plan for farms on boulevards in the Vancouver Sun here.

See Green Skins Lab web site here.

See North Vancouver Video Segments and Reports here. Click on June 1, 2009 PDF to download. Then in the PDF open Video Clip 12, a 21 minute video of the presentation In Real Player.

Video Clip 12
Mr. Daniel Roehr, Founder, Greenskins Lab and Assistant Professor at
University of British Columbia, School of Architecture and Landscape
Architecture (SALA).

Re: Municipal Supported Agriculture – File: 3325-01

Mr. Daniel Roehr, Founder, Greenskins Lab and Assistant Professor at University of British Columbia, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), gave a PowerPoint presentation regarding “Pilot Project for Urban Farming”.


Also See:

See also UBC planting seeds of urban agriculture
by Benjamin Alldritt, North Shore News June 07, 2009

North Vancouver farming will not sow discontent
North Shore News June 24, 2009

Update September 28, 2009

City green-lights new urban farm

Benjamin Alldritt, North Shore News
Published: Sunday, September 27, 2009

THE City of North Vancouver will move ahead with an urban agriculture project, the first of its kind on the North Shore.

Council voted unanimously Monday to begin public consultation regarding a potential farm in the southern portion of Loutet Park. If it proceeds, a U.B.C.-led team will develop and operate the farm, at no cost to the city, for a five-year trial.

The concept of urban agriculture was first presented to council in June. Daniel Roehr, assistant professor at U.B.C.’s school of architecture, said growing crops in urban areas would help begin to address food security issues and reduce the transportation costs and emissions associated with distant food sources. Urban agriculture is distinct from community gardening because of its intensive, yield-oriented approach.

Roehr said the sites would be designed to be esthetically pleasing, drawing the community in and helping city dwellers reconnect with the realities of food production. While designed to be an efficient, commercially viable operation, any profits from the farm’s food sales will be reinvested.

City staff examined several possible locations, but settled on Loutet Park because of its comparative underuse, its flatness and good exposure to sunlight.

Coun. Bob Fearnley questioned whether the soil was suitable for farming.
“As it stands, I would say no,” replied city streetscape planner Alexander Kurnicki. “But with the addition of compost and perhaps some additional soil, this land can be productive.”

City staff will start work on the consultation process, which will involve at least one open house public meeting.

Story here.

1 comment

1 storyboarding { 07.27.09 at 1:56 am }

I’m so digging this, I know I like going to farmer’s market on weekend morning but a green farm just around the corner sounds perfect idea to me.

Signature: Telling stories with right storyboarding presentation together with PowerPoint presentation is like owning a printing press and printing your own currency.