Category Archives: Urban Agriculture

District of North Vancouver – Supporting Community Gardens & Local Food Systems?

Lillooet Park Community Garden, photo: Heather Johnstone

We went to the District of North Vancouver (DNV) Council Meeting last Monday to present on the merits of supporting more community garden development, and to report on the success of the newly built Lillooet Park Community Garden.  The agenda was stacked with food related presentations – the Edible Garden Project, Delbrook Staff Garden Initiative, the Youth Safe House Secret Garden, comments on Metro Vancouver’s Draft Regional Food System Strategy, and the results of a survey on Neighbourhood Perceptions of Local Food and Gardening.

We are so thank-full that over a dozen people came out to support and speak about community gardens. Having so many warm bodies and different perspectives on why community gardens are important for DNV residents made a real impact! The animated and heartfelt descriptions of the joys of lugging rocks during the hottest days of the year during the construction of the Lillooet Park Community Garden, meeting new neighbours and friends, and getting a chance to learn new skills showed Mayor and Council the diversity of reasons why the community supports more gardens.  At the end of the evening Councillor Lisa Muri said, “I am no longer a skeptic on the value of community gardens and what they mean to residents of the North Vancouver District.” That’s a big step forward, and we were happy to also hear support for community garden initiatives from Mayor Walton, Councillor Hicks, Councillor McKay-Dunn, and Councillor Nixon.

As Mayor and Council discussed a number of items on the agenda Heather and I found ourselves scribbling notes and biting our tongues. Sometimes it’s hard not to interject and add your own thoughts to the discussion! Instead of getting kicked out of Council Chambers for disrupting decorum, we decided to save our thoughts to share in writing today.

What is the distinction between neighbourhood gardening and large scale “food security”?

One of the interesting points that was brought up a few times by Counc. Little is the notion that neighbourhood gardening does not impact food security. We beg to differ, and I think there are a few other members of Council that would agree there is a very real and tangible connection.

  1. If we’re talking about food security on an individual basis then we cannot assume that everyone can afford to have access to fresh healthy produce all the time. In fact there are many people on the North Shore who would benefit to access to a community garden plot to grow nutritious and culturally appropriate food for themselves and their families.  Gardens provide people with access to grow safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate food even if they don’t provide all of the food they will need.
  2. Counc. Hicks mentioned the role that Victory Gardens played in providing families with food in England post WWII. Community gardens will need to play a similar role again in the future as food supply decreases and costs increase due to climate change.  We are several generations removed from our agricultural roots and  need to re-build the capacity and knowledge on food growing within our communities if we hope to have the same success of past Victory Gardens.  Community gardens provide the perfect learning environment and hosts for workshops and training sessions available to everyone in the community to revive those lost skills.  Community gardens are not the end all and be all of food security for the North Shore, but they are a more than simply recreational and therapeutic. They are one vital component of a diverse strategy that helps move us towards  a resilient and sustainable food secure community.

Whose responsibility is food security?

During the discussion of the Metro Vancouver Regional Food Strategy draft, Counc. Muri and Bassam were both supportive of the strategy’s proposal to preserve Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land. This is great, but there is no ALR land in the DNV. Although I’m happy to see them jump on board the preserving ALR lands, their support for something that has little to do with food security or production in the DNV is not a replacement for “home grown” initiatives on the North Shore.  A regional strategy for food security is incredibly important, but I think that a perspective that focused more on “what can we do to support this…” rather than “Metro Van should…” would do wonders.

Passing the cost of community garden building over to community members would defeat the purpose of accessibility, and it is unrealistic to rely solely on businesses to sponsor community initiatives like this. However there is room for the DNV Council to address what their role is in supporting community garden development without being responsible for paying for them all. The upcoming Official Community Plan (OCP) is a great opportunity to encourage or require all new developments to include community garden space. If the District is not going to support garden development financially, why not include them as a community amenity to be provided by developers. As the ‘Network of Centres’ proposed in the Draft OCP is developed increasing density is only going to mean increased demand for garden space: building them in as these centres develop is going to be much easier than trying to add them later!

Community Gardens are not Cost Effective?

When it comes down to cost, I just don’t see how an elliptical machine offers more value to the community then a community garden – that’s an argument we’re hearing from some Council members!  Although a gymnasium may see over 200 people in a month, there are construction, staffing, maintenance, electricity, etc. costs to consider over the lifetime of that infrastructure.. Gardens on the other hand are a onetime construction cost (the garden society takes care of ongoing maintenance), and provide a public space and learning environment for the entire community. In fact, the District is saving money every year by no longer having to maintain the garden site. I think that if you compare the cost of each over 20 years the garden might not seem so expensive!  Both have value from a recreation perspective, but both appeal to different folks as well – I’m personally not a community member who gets any use out of an elliptical machine!

Overall the response at the Council Meeting was positive, but I think that there is work to be done to articulate the connections between neighbourhood gardening and food security, and the economics of community gardens to Mayor and Council. Moving forward… we know there are lots of people in Lynn Valley who want a community garden. Our question to you is, “If you were a community garden in Lynn Valley, where would you be?”

Here’s the video we created to thank Mayor and Council for their support of the Lillooet Park Community Garden.

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Farmers Markets for District of North Vancouver

Photo: Natalie Maynor

Tonight the District of North Vancouver’s Mayor and Council will debate the merits of a proposal for two farmers markets. The two proposed locations are at Lynn Valley Village Plaza and Parkgate Plaza, and would run for a trail period of one year. The proposal on the table tonight would authorize staff to modify special events permits to allow for events like a farmers market on public lands.

There’s nothing like buying your fresh produce from a local farmer – the person that put in the sweat equity to make that carrot so sweet and crunchy! Farmers Markets provide the opportunity to buy fresh healthy local produce, support our local economy, and of course create the connection between food purchasers and producers.

To support the proposal for Farmers Markets in the District of North Vancouver you can:

  1. Write to Mayor and Council – we’ve even created an email that you can cut and paste if you’re short on time. Email them at: dnvcouncil@dnv.org

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am writing in support of the proposal for the Farmers Market trials in North Vancouver. Farmers Markets provide access to fresh local food, an opportunity to get outside and meet new people, and support our local economy in BC. I would like to see Farmers Markets in North Vancouver, and I hope that you will support this proposal.

Sincerely…

  1. Attend the Council Meeting – tonight (Dec 13th) at 7:00pm, 355 West Queens Road, North Vancouver

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Rendezvou with Permaculture Carins

Just the cutest little thing all wrapped up in a banana tree!

Just the cutest little thing all wrapped up in a banana tree!

After finishing up with the Permaculture Design Certificate I decided to try my luck at actually getting my hands dirty! I found a few permaculture groups in towns on my route up North, and contacted them to see if they had any work parties or cool events coming up. Permaculture Cairns was the only group that got back to me, but I was able to arrange to help out with a community garden renovation project they had planned.

Essentially the garden had been running well for a while, and then the main organizer moved on to greener pastures (and a cooler climate?) and the whole thing ground to a dead stop. It’s really too bad because the garden has a great location on an elementary school grounds. Permaculture Carins was alerted that the garden needed some TLC, so they organized a day to re-vamp and renovate, and hoped to get the surrounding community involved so there would be renewed local energy brought to the project. SO we all got together and worked our buts off in the hot sun, and got the garden back into tip top shape!

I worked on the Banana circle for most of the day. It's hard to see here, but there is a big pit in the middle of the circle that is filled with organics and multch... then more multch around the trees... and another layer of multch for good luck!

I worked on the Banana circle for most of the day. It's hard to see here, but there is a big pit in the middle of the circle that is filled with organics and mulch... then more mulch around the trees... and another layer of mulch for good luck!

Making multch!

Making mulch!

Compost workshop underway. The big chicken wire bales are for measuring out the correct amounts of brown multch, green multch, and manure.

Compost workshop underway. The big chicken wire bales are for measuring out the correct amounts of brown mulch, green mulch, and manure.

Planting into the multch layers - keeps all those pesky weeds away

Planting into the mulch layers - keeps all those pesky weeds away

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Filed under People Power, Permaculture, Travel, Urban Agriculture

Vancouver Food Policy Council Spring Update

I was so excited to see all the amazing workshops that were posted in the Food Policy Spring Update! You can see the full list here, but I wanted to highlight the following because they look especially cool:

If you haven’t visited the Food Policy website, it’s worth checking out. There are a few job opportunities posted, as well as a list of volunteer positions. So many ways to get involved!

Check out the Greater Vancouver Community Gardens site. It’s a social network for all of us out there involved in community gardens or looking to start new ones. It’s updated regularily, and I think it will make a grea hub for information on Vancouver’s gardens!

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It’s Offical! Vancouver Allows City Chickens

I’m sitting at the first Vancouver Green Tech Forum. Mayor Gregor Robertson opened the event, and in his address he confirmed that the amendment to the Animal Control By-law has passed! This means Vancouverites can now legally keep chickens in their backyard. I don’t have all the details, but I believe that there is a limit to 2 hens (I could be wrong about this!).

Photo credit: The Green Life

Photo credit: The Green Life

There are lots of North American cities that allow city chickens, and there are many benefits. So you’ve got a backyard, and want some urban hens of your own? I just collected a few resources that I thought I would share with you.

A friend of mine also just started a Facebook Group that you may want to check out. Chickens in Vancouver will become a place for dialogue on keeping hens in urban Vancouver.

Gregor also mentioned the fact that City Hall lawn will be ripped up the Spring to make way for a new community garden! How exciting! This is just the sort of leadership and initiative I’ve wanted to see come out of City Hall.  The new garden will be built in partnership with Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) – a long standing organization in Vancouver that has done amazing work to make our city greener.

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Filed under Politics, Urban Agriculture

City Chickens for Vancouver

Photo credit: earthbeatradio.com

Photo credit: earthbeatradio.com

This evening Legalizing Backyard Hens was on the list of motions on the City Council meeting agenda, but I’ve heard through the grape vine (and a reputable source) that the vote will actually happen on Thursday March 5th.

We’re down to the wire folks – if you support an amendment to the current Animal Control By-law that will legalize keeping hens in our backyards, please email your support to mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

Vancouver media has picked up on the City Chickens by-law in recent weeks. CBC interviewed Heather Jarvey, who is already illegally raising two hens in her backyard.

“Vancouver is one of those communities claiming to be very sustainable and green,” Jarvey said. “What’s more sustainable and green than having a chicken in your backyard that gives you healthy, practically free protein?”

Jarvey scorns charges that chickens are loud and dirty, countering that hens, unlike roosters, make little noise. She added that chickens produce much less waste than dogs or cats, and their manure can be composted… read more.

Almost every time I go visit my Mom, she has the newest rendition of the PERFECT chicken coop design. Although she doesn’t live within Vancouver, so the by-law won’t apply, I find her Swiss-army to gypsy caravan style chicken coop designs inspiring…. I could imagine them all in the back yards of my neighbourhood.

To support the City Chickens:

  1. email mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
  2. Go to the City Council meeting on Thursday March 5th.
  3. Make a brief address to the Council about the by-law at Thursday’s meeting (please sign-up).
  4. Join the Chickens in Vancouver Facebook group.

Originally posted on Rocks & Water.

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Filed under Politics, Urban Agriculture

Vancouver Urban Gardens Sprouting

Community gardens are uber popular in Vancouver, and the number of developer-started gardens is on the rise. Land developers, like Onni, are taking their idle land and turning it into temporary community garden space. The gardeners have to move on as soon as the development company is ready to start building, but until then AT LEAST they have a plot.  I think that Vancouver is at the front of the pack on this one – I haven’t been able to find examples from other cities. Granville magazine recently wrote:

Private developers have caught on to the trend. The development company ONNI turned a vacant site at Seymour and Pacific streets in the heart of Yaletown into a community garden. Seventy-nine plots were made available on a first-come first-served basis to community groups and residents to grow food on a temporary basis, until the site is developed within one to three years. Mike Clark, ONNI development manager, was surprised at how much interest the garden generated and how quickly the plots were taken. “We had overwhelming response. The lineup of people is unbelievable – hundreds of people pounding down the doors trying to get some dirt on their hands,” Clark says. “We have learned there is a major need for gardening facilities in downtown. Everyone is going condo-living, but people are just dying to get their hands dirty and they don’t have the opportunity; they don’t have a backyard.”

Onni Community Gardens Viewed from the Bridge from Michael Levenston on Vimeo.

The Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) was involved in the initial start-up of the Onni Garden, and now we’re taking on the new garden at the corner of Burard and Davie Street – Davie Street Community Garden. So that means that I’ll be heading up getting this garden off the ground and into the hands of the community.

The incentive for developers to start gardens? BC Tax Assessment will asses property taxes at a lower rate if the pre-developed land is being used for a community or public purpose (i.e. a garden).

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Filed under Urban Agriculture, Vancouver Public Space Network