Urban Farming

Developing an Adaptive Framework that Encourages and Promotes the Development of Entrepreneurial Urban Farming in Vancouver

Chris Thoreau

September 2010

Full Paper Here: Increasing the Sustainability of Urban Farming in Vancouver – Thesis – November 2011

As part of its plan to become the Greenest City in the World, the City of Vancouver has named urban food systems as one of ten target areas for achieving this goal.  And with that target comes some ambitious goals – most notably, reducing “…the carbon footprint of our food by 33 percent per capita”[1].

Urban agriculture is one of the many components that make up the food system in Vancouver and other cities.  Other components include food preservation and fermentation; grocery and retail sales, restaurants, distribution – including warehousing, home delivery programs and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban wild crafting, food preparation, and – well…eating.   With many food-related carbon emissions relating to the distribution of food, urban agriculture can play a substantial role in reducing Vancouver’s carbon footprint by reducing the distance that food travels from producer to consumer.  Further, urban agriculture can contribute to an overall healthier society by providing fresher produce to cities; growing food in ecologically-sensible ways; providing social and educational opportunities for urban dwellers; and providing income for urban farmers.

While the focus of urban agriculture tends to be on its role in the environmental sustainability of our food system (especially reducing food miles), the economic and social aspects are easily neglected.  The economic sustainability of urban agriculture partially lies in its ability to generate income or effectively solicit for appropriate grant monies; further, operating urban farms and gardens effectively with appropriate technology and affordable, quality infrastructure contributes to the economic return to urban growers.  Urban agriculture`s social sustainability is governed greatly by its contribution to the community and its affect on those working as urban farmers – including how their work hours may adversely affect their family and social life – an issue plaguing many small-scale rural farmers in BC.

As a proponent and practitioner of urban agriculture for the past nine years I am excited and optimistic about its potential in Vancouver.  My particular interest is in developing and supporting entrepreneurial opportunities for urban farmers in Vancouver.  Thus, the goal of this thesis is to work towards developing an adaptive framework that encourages and promotes the development of entrepreneurial (income-generating) urban farming in Vancouver.

This framework will be created within the context of the three pillars of sustainability with its ultimate goal being to aid urban farmers in developing economically viable urban farming businesses which are involved in, and contribute to, Vancouver communities and which promote and utilize ecologically-sensible farming practices.

This project will have both short-term and long-term goals, the development of which will be a key part of the thesis.

Some key aspects of the thesis include:

  • Meeting with Vancouver urban farmers to solicit feedback on their needs to be successful
  • Identifying potential project partners and developing strategy for building relationships
  • Lobbying and supporting the city in its goal to become the Greenest City in the World
  • Researching other urban agriculture businesses in North America
  • Using Internet technology for recording, sharing and disseminating information

Some potential short term-goals:

  • Determine need for new organization and establish if needed
  • Develop blog for recording and sharing process
  • Identify the needs of urban farmers through a series of consultations and working groups
    • Develop strategy to address needs
  • Identify indicators for social, economic, and environmental sustainability of urban farming
  • Identify potential project partners
    • Develop strategy to strengthen relationships
  • Develop active listserv for urban farming
    • Establish system to keep listserv active
    • Develop urban farming resource list
  • Help new and existing urban farmers develop a business a plan
  • Lobby the city to include urban farming designation in business licensing office
  • Develop time lines for achieving above and other goals

Long-term Goals/Perspective.


  • Monitor and build on current urban farming businesses and urban agriculture initiatives in Vancouver
  • Address the dissonance between the need for urban farm land and continued development in the city.
  • Set goals for entrepreneurial, home-level, and community garden development in the city and a system for monitoring
  • Develop urban agriculture standards for using others’ yard space


  • Develop a strong network of urban farmers who can share ideas and resources
  • Develop workshop series and annual conference of urban farmers in Vancouver/BC/Canada
  • Explore tool share and space share ideas for transport, storage, and processing of urban harvests


  • Lobby City for
    • Funding and grants for small urban farming businesses
    • Setting aside land for urban farming businesses
    • Incentives to homeowners using yard space for food production

[1] A Bright Green Future.  Greenest City Action Team, City of Vancouver.



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