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Entries in agriculture (2)


Vancouver: intensive gardening

In Vancouver, Sole Food Farms has leased, for $1/year, a former PetroCan gas station one-acre lot adjacent to the Downtown Eastside, and made an urban orchard on it.  Five hundred fruit-bearing dwarf species, planted over 800 containers, will be fully cropping in 3-5 years.  In the meantime, the containers also produce ground crops, sold to restaurants and grocery stores.  Downtown Eastside residents are hired, the produce is organic, it is intensive farming with an enormous embedded social energy.  

Sole Food has four sites throughout the downtown core; on this one the ground is contaminated, being a former gas station, thus the above-ground containers, which can also be moved if the land is reclaimed by the owner.  There are always development pressures on land in a downtown area, an acre is a large plot and the cost of de-contamination is linked to technological advance, so the land could be developed: condos and such.  However, there is something so fundamentally optimistic about an orchard on the move if it ever comes to pass.  

Vancouver is so forward-thinking I don't think it is actually part of Canada.   


street farms

Noisivelvet with AltgeldSawyer Corner Farm, Logan Square, Chicago, 2011

This was a four-hour, 3,000 square foot urban park, done with a Block Party permit from the City of Chicago.  What is the point if it is only for an afternoon?  To give people an alternative view of the city where there are not cars and roadways become lawn? 

I bit more useful are Havana's agriponicos, below, where raised beds are built on rubble sites, old parking lots and in city parks:

Havana, CubaIn response to the US blockade, in place since 1961 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, between 1989 and 1994 these were mixed subsistence farms with animals and crops with all products consumed by the producer. After 1994 restrictions were eased and crops could be sold by the growers at markets. 

It makes one question the luxury of the whole concept of the public park – a space for the eye and the mind – we have in our cities, that produce little in the way of material well-being.  The Chicago pop-up above is its apotheosis: wasteful of resources and energy to make a rhetorical point.  Meanwhile we have to drive long distances spewing fumes and exhaust to get to a local-ish farmers market, or else get our vegetables sent from the US because for some reason this is cheaper for supermarket chains to do than to buy locally. 

Our open-space values need some revision here, not just fun projects, but serious and permanent connections between urban open space and food provision.