Sharing Knowledge, Growing Community

Last week, Leslie and I headed down to the Hives for Humanity Bee Space in Vancouver’s east side for a meeting of minds.  We were joined by folks from Sole Food Street Farms, Hastings Urban Farm, and Marcela Crowe, the executive director of Vancouver’s Urban Farming Society.

Bright smiles from Vancouver's urban farming community

Bright smiles from Vancouver’s urban farming community

Urban farming has been growing in and around the Greater Vancouver Area for years.  An enormous amount of work has been done to establish successful food growing spaces in back yards, rooftops, parks, empty lots and schoolyards.

Much of this was done in the spirit of cooperation between organizations and the folks than run them, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the Vancouver Urban Farming Society.

As somewhat of a newcomer to scene, this meeting was a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with a supportive and collaborative community of urban farmers.

Our discussion revolved around opportunities for sharing resources and knowledge, our upcoming projects and goals, and some of the challenges we face in running social enterprise urban farms.

The theme that really resonated for me was that we are all trying (and sometimes scrambling!) to do more.  Such is the life of an urban farmer!

We aim to get fresh, healthy, locally produced food to more people.  We find new and innovative spaces to grow food, and in turn give more folks the opportunity to see how food is produced.  We create community spaces with low barriers to access.

We connect people to food growers, and provide growing education and opportunity for those who might not otherwise have access.  We share the therapeutic benefits of working with soil, with plants, with insects and animals.

We encourage interest and concern in our food systems.  We provide venues for people to act on their beliefs and get involved – whether that means volunteering on an urban farm or hosting a backyard garden or beehive or buying local where ever possible.

Each of our organizations have similar visions and our own ways of realizing them.  But the common theme is how much room there is to grow.  There is so much demand out there for this type of space, this type of education, this type of food.

That demand requires us to do more.  And in that regard, taking the time to build a strong, connected and inclusive urban farming community benefits us all.  The easiest way to do more is by sharing resources and knowledge, so that we can free up our time to connect with our communities or improve our crops.

By opening our tool boxes and contributing some tips and best practices, we will benefit from an innovation that someone else has discovered through trail and error.  So that when a challenge arises, we don’t feel we have to reinvent the wheel.

Although our time is often precious, sometimes it can be as simple as a meeting or a phone call to check in with where everyone is at and what is on the horizon.  Just as we tend to our crops, we must nurture our partnerships.

I believe all the knowledge we hold is a valuable resource, and that this gathering was a great reminder to organize and use it in way that best serves our communities.

I’m personally excited to be a part of this great group of folks and look forward to a great year of growing our urban farming community!

Come back soon for my upcoming blog on how I think urban farmers fit in the larger farming community.  

In the meantime, check out a great list of urban farming resources compiled by the Vancouver Urban Farming Society here, and Young Agrarians which is a wonderful resource for young farmers urban, rural or somewhere in between.  

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