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Rooftop gardens, community plots and a city hall vegetable patch: is urban agriculture a passing fad or serious business?


Urban Agriculture in Vancouver

Interviews with former city councillor Peter Ladner, a fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue, and Janine de la Salle, the director of food systems planning at the Vancouver office of HB Lanarc.
Business in Vancouver
March 3, 2010


The new City of Vancouver administration raised some eyebrows last spring when one of its first moves was to tear up a swath of lawn at city hall and replace it with a vegetable patch. For many this was easily dismissed as a symbolic gesture: farmer Robertson staking his claim.

Not so easy to dismiss are the dozens of garden plots that have sprung up all over the city or the fact that developers and urban planners now have entire departments devoted to planning patches of city farmland.

While some dismiss the “eat-local” movement as a passing fad, for others it’s serious business. Take Ward Teulon, for example: the proprietor of City Farm Boy has carved out a business tilling west side backyards and selling the produce. Or consider Sole Food Inner City Farm on East Hastings Street: the half-acre city plot has 12 part-time staff on its payroll, and its founders claim it will contribute to feeding Downtown Eastside residents.

The city-farmer faction has clearly gained traction, and, equally clearly, it’s not just a bunch of back-to-nature freaks who are behind the movement. To help make sense of the growing trend toward city farming, BCBusiness sat down with two experts. Janine de la Salle is the director of food systems planning at the Vancouver office of HB Lanarc, urban planning and design consultants. Former city councillor Peter Ladner is a fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue and is working on a project called Planning Cities as if Food Mattered.

To the average Vancouverite, agriculture is out of sight and out of mind. Why do we need more agriculture in the city?

LADNER: The first issue people have to be aware of is the fragility of our food supply. It’s coming mostly from out of province, and given a number of major issues in the world right now, that supply is increasingly threatened. There’s the growing number of people in China and India who are starting to eat meat and consume more of the world’s grains. There’s global warming, which is causing drought in some areas and flooding in others. There’s a shortage of water; agriculture uses 70 per cent of the water in the U.S., and that water’s running out. Then there’s the rising price of fossil fuels, and that affects not just the cost of transportation but the cost of fuels used in producing food in a factory setting, as we do now for most of our food.

See the rest of the article here.