Contaminated land derails Vancouver urban farm expansion plans
“We’re giving them the land for nothing, We certainly haven’t set aside a budget for cleaning up this land.”
By Luke Brocki
February 18, 2011
The trouble with land is that it’s practically impossible to make more of it. Despite the City of Vancouver’s plans to see its flagship urban farm expand to new locations, SOLEfood farm is getting a hard lesson in real estate: the city’s few empty lots are either slated for development or are long-abandoned and contaminated industrial sites.
“Unfortunately the soils are not usable,” says seasoned farmer and author Michael Ableman, the man in charge of growing food at the social enterprise in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “We cannot move forward and allow people to grow edible crops in soil that’s going to essentially poison those crops,” he says.
That’s exactly the problem at 1015 East Hastings Street, a half-acre former junkyard the city has already leased to United We Can, the parent company behind SOLEfood, with the expressed purpose of expanding the farm’s operations. As the new growing season draws near, Ableman worries the site’s grade, drainage and, above all, soil toxicity might be deal-breakers.
“I made the decision last week to walk away from that site,” he says. “They’re working had to try to resolve this, but unless the city is going to come forward and cover the cost of that mitigation, then we’re going to walk and go for another location.”