First Brainstorm

As I look into the future working groups that this project aims to facilitate I keep getting ideas and thoughts that I need to get written down before I lose them.  Which really is the whole point of this blog.

I have lately been thinking about working group topics related to urban farming – what are the topics that we need to discuss and explore in order to meet challenges of moving urban farming forward?  Let’s start with land related issues:

  • Access to land
    • This is one of the major challenges for urban farmers.
      • Many urban farmers are utilizing private land (residential back yards) to grow their produce
      • Should the city make land available for urban farming entrepreneurs?
        • If so, will this conflict with the needs and desires of community gardens in the city?
  • Land tenure
    • Access to land is one thing, but security on that land is another.  How can urban farmers be secure on their (others’) land?
      • Model lease agreements may be helpful
      • Registering urban farmers with the city may also be beneficial
      • What is the minimum period of time a piece of land needs to be available to be valuable to an urban farmers?
  • Land Security
    • Community gardens already have issue with vandalism and theft of products.  This is unfortunate since this produce is valuable to the gardener from both a health perspective and an economic perspective.
      • For the urban farmer the focus is greatly on economic.  Crops represent income and if they are damaged or go missing then the farmer’s livelihood may be at stake.  Urban farmers are more likely to experience vandalism than rural farmers, though this may be the equivalent of pest damage on the rural farm!  Yes, humans can be pests!
  • Land maintenance
    • What will be the urban farmer’s responsibility for land maintenance when using others’ yard space (or even city space?)
    • In the city, aesthetics is more of a concern than in the rural setting since living conditions are more concentrated.  Some issues to explore include:
      • General farm yard aesthetics (weeds, piles of organic waste, staking plants, etc.)
      • Proper storage of tools and pots (not left outside and laying around)
      • Odours relate to compost
  • Use of neglected land
    • Interestingly, this is not yet a major issue in Vancouver since the city is growing and densifying so quickly.  But in many major US cities (Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit) there are thousands of acres of abandoned and derelict land that are now being utilized for urban farming.
    • But there is underutilized land in the city – some of which is not easily developed.  Utilizing this land for urban farming can help diversify urban landscapes while simultaneously creating employment.
    • There are two large areas of interest as central hubs for shared urban farm land.  One is the space to the North of Pacific Central Station – currently a 20- or so-acre gravel parking lot that is underutilized.  One section is being developed into 2 synthetic turf playing fields while another part is used for storing materials for the new roof going onto the stadium downtown.  Another spot is off of Great Northern Way (North side) between Main and Clark
  • General land use in Vancouver
    • This city is rapidly densifying, with dozens of cranes tainting the landscape at all times.  It seems that any open space in the city, that is not already park land, is inevitably fated to be a condo.  If the city wants to support urban farming it will have to act now if it is to be able to provide land for urban farmers (or community gardens).  While park space can be converted to farming space, we have to remember that park space already plays an important social role in our communities as leisure and recreation space.  Digging up parks to grow food is not necessarily a step forward (though it is a nice option to have in times of crisis).
  • Land zoning
    • The only land in Vancouver that is zoned for agriculture is in Southlands (and it is all horses there anyhow).  Thus, it seems that growing food within the city for the purpose of selling is illegal.  While this has not appeared to be an issue, the city could act proactively to designate urban farming as an accepted practice in all city areas (under conditions which do not disturb neighbouring residents or businesses).  Without this zoning, neighbour complaints, or even an urban agriculture adversary, could jeopardize the stability that urban farming businesses require to be successful.

Well, that’s all I got in me for tonight.  I’ll post more soon.

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