Cultivating Concrete

Looking for ways to eat healthier? Urban farming is on the rise in Vancouver.


With the rise of urban farming in metropolitan cities around the world, the phrase “concrete jungle” is taking on a whole new meaning. Though the concept of “urban farming” is relatively new, Vancouver is one of the first Canadian cities to accept it as a viable form of sustainable food practices due heavily to the growing concerns for safe food handling procedures and a rising population. The number of community garden plots has nearly doubled since 2009 with over 104 locations, bringing a hue of bright green to the washed-out shades of grey our city is inundated with. In an attempt to educate consumers about the realities of food production, City Council adopted a strategy at the beginning of the year to increase the number of urban farms, farmers markets and food-bearing trees within the city’s limits.

Parking Lot with a Purpose

Last November, the first vertical urban farm was introduced to North America in the most unlikely of places — on the rooftop of an EasyPark in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Operating year round by Alterrus System Inc., Vancouver’s Local Garden uses a new hydroponic technology called VertiCrop. Fashioned after a factory converter belt, it is equipped with over 3,000 trays that rotate between 18 to 24 days for maximum exposure to sunlight without the need for pesticides. The result? A yield four times more than a typical field crop at ten times the productivity. The space is a mere 5,700 square feet, but given that the produce is grown in trays stacked 12 high, one might think they’re stepping into a lush forest of green as opposed to a once bustling parking lot. The site produces approximately 150,000 pounds of fresh produce annually while using only 10% of the water typically used for traditional agriculture. Growing over 80 varieties of vegetables including spinach, arugula and kale, Local Garden significantly reduces Vancouver’s carbon footprint by cutting back on transportation distance, energy use and harmful chemicals.

Gas Station Gardens

Imagine that instead of filling your car with expensive gas, you’re stocking the trunk with the season’s freshest herbs and produce. It may be a farfetched idea but, for the residents surrounding Main Street and Terminal Avenue, it is very much a reality. In the summer of 2013, SoleFood Street Farms, a Canadian non-profit organization, converted an old Petro Canada gas station into the largest urban orchard in North America. With the land having been unused for the past decade, it is being leased to the company by the city of Vancouver for an unheard of total of $1 a year.

Fun Facts About SoleFood Street Farms

  • 500 new fruit trees.
  • Produces up to 60 tonnes of produce annually between its four working sites.
  • Fully functioning share program, wherein SoleFood delivers a variety of produce, using the highest organic standards, weekly to customer’s doors between May and November.
  • SoleFood also supplies produce to 30 local restaurants and gives back 10 percent of its harvest to Downtown Eastside agencies via donation.
  • SoleFood has countered the issue with a system of moveable planters that can be stacked one on top of the other and moved with a forklift.
  • Provides meaningful employment to members of the Downtown Eastside who may have struggled with drug addiction or mental illness.

2 Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint


Band Together as a Neighbourhood

By interacting with nature and their own neighbours, residents have shown an overall improvement to their social and emotional well-being as well as an increased community social life. Urban farming is seen as a calming experience and usually offers a place of refuge to people in heavily populated cities.

Garden More

It is unknown to many that they are actually a vital source that can absorb sound waves. As a result of implementing urban farms throughout the city, farmers are additionally contributing to a vast reduction in noise pollution.


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