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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Feature: Hastings Urban Farm

Urban farming, a trend in agriculture that has been gaining popularity in Vancouver, marks an effort to renew our connection to the food we eat, in the midst of an increasingly unsustainable global food economy. Not only does it enable local food production in our cities, it can also be a way to work underused urban land while also fostering community building.

One such project is the Hastings Urban Farm, a project of the Portland Hotel Society located near the Woodwards Building in an empty lot at 58 West Hastings. The farm grows everything from leafy greens like kale and swiss chard to carrots and radishes.

Unlike other community gardens, Hastings Urban Farm is not an individual-plot garden, but a community collaboration where people are able to get involved in growing and sharing food with other neighbourhood residents.

As part of a wider urban farming movement, projects such as the Hastings Urban Farm help to foster community food security by offering an affordable way to access fresh, local, and healthy produce, as well as opportunities for people to learn about food gardening and develop their knowledge and skills. It also provides a chance for people who do not have access to land or space in their homes to grow food and can create employment opportunities within cities for workers to tend and harvest crops.

Source: Urban Food Policy (Nevin Cohen)

Growing food locally can be a way of challenging a global food system that currently puts production over sustainability, energy use, health, and social welfare. Shipping produce and other perishable crops, for example, requires enormous amounts of energy -- from preparation, refrigeration, to transportation -- and by growing food in our cities, this process from farm to kitchen table becomes considerably shorter.

One of the biggest challenges, however, is growing and selling local food legally -- it is not yet legal to get a business license for such urban farming ventures. These municipal bylaws mean that many farms, such as the Urban Digs Farm, are limited in where they can set up food production operations. While the City of Vancouver hosts numerous urban farming projects today (the product of continuous back-and-forth between farmers and city officials) and has made a goal of becoming a global leader in urban food systems, they have yet to revise and update policy around urban farming businesses.

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