I spent the last year as Tourism Richmond’s 365 Days of Dining food blogger. I ate at a different Richmond restaurant every day for a year, and blogged about each and every experience. I didn’t just talk about restaurants, however; I also explored the community, and ended up spending a heck of a lot of time at The Sharing Farm. When I first heard about this organization - a non-profit that grows organic food for the Richmond Food Bank – I was in awe. Richmond has a rich history of agriculture, and this whole project – a “Grand Experiment” as local farmer and city councilor Harold Steves called it – is truly remarkable.
The Sharing Farm occupies nearly three acres of land in Terra Nova Rural Park, has an apple and pear orchard at the foot of Gilbert Road, and grows over 200,000 pounds of produce per year for those in need. Because who deserves nutritious, local, organic food? Everyone, that’s who.
The place itself is picturesque, with a brightly-coloured ‘Healing Garden’ next to a hand-built cobb oven, and fields of garlic, wheat, and vegetables. There are greenhouses strung with twine to support tomatoes and a small orchard filled with beehives - this year they’ll be producing their own honey. Dana and I recently attended the Sharing Farm’s Summer Solstice Potluck, which was thrown to celebrate a generous donation to the organization by Salt Spring Coffee.
This organic ‘Fair to Farmer” coffee company gave $15,000 to the farm, which allowed them to purchase a much-needed tractor and other equipment. Salt Spring Coffee, we salute you!
The Sharing Farm isn’t alone in its quest to help feed Metro Vancouver; there are all kinds of innovative projects and businesses working towards greater food security in the Lower Mainland. One such example is Sole Food, which “transforms vacant urban land into street farms that grows artisan quality fruits and vegetables.” If you’re anywhere near Rogers Arena or BC Place on False Creek, you’re likely to see one of their farms, a lush spread of green occupying what used to be a barren concrete parking lot.
They also do community outreach, employing up to 25 people dealing with drug addiction and mental illness.
Another community initiative, created to specifically help residents of the DTES, is A Better Life Foundation. It was founded by Mark Brand, a social entrepreneur and restauranteur who, despite being a pretty young guy, is already a legend in the Vancouver food scene.
I think his work (and I must say, his glasses) are awesome. He’s innovative, ambitious, and has invested in creating both successful businesses AND programs to benefit the community. I lived for almost two years in Strathcona, just one block south of infamous East Hastings in East Vancouver. Close, and yet from afar, I saw some of the struggles many DTES residents face, and witnessed/read the debates over gentrification in the area. There are no easy answers, and there will never be, but the efforts of Mark Brand and others are proactively doing something. And they all stem from that one basic need we all have: the need for food.
A Better Life Foundation recently partnered with The Peak to put on the best fundraiser of all time: a 1 kilometre Run to a Beer Garden. Yes, participants were asked to pay the $35 registration fee, strap on their sweatbands, tie up their runners tight, and set off on a grueling 1000 metre run towards a beer garden. There, participants ‘rehydrated’ while listening to Vancouver's The Zolas. A sweet event to raise money for a great cause. Congrats to all the marathon runners.
And now, Ladies and gentlemen, The Zolas:
**This post was submitted to The Canadian Food Experience Project for April 2014's theme of 'A Canadian Grower or Producer.