WATCH ABOVE: Urban farms provide fresh food to local residents, farmers markets and restaurants, but they are also changing neighbourhoods and lives. Allison Vuchnich reports.
Urban agriculture is growing – fast. Many large scale urban farms strive to be a force for change in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods where access to affordable, healthy food can be challenging. The farms also offer employment, education and community building.
“The scale of what we have created is significant, it’s huge,” Michael Ableman from Sole Food Farms, told Global News. “You can have a large scale, agriculture scale, enterprise in the city and have that work and function and provide employment and provide volumes of food to people. That’s our goal, the jobs and the production volumes of food are very important to us.”
Ableman spoke to Global News at Sole Food’s one-acre urban orchard in Vancouver. Considered the largest in North America, the land used to be an abandoned lot. Sole Food operates four locations totalling close to 4.5 acres in Vancouver with a fifth site in the works.
WATCH: Michael Ableman talks about Sole Food Farms large scale urban agriculture projects in Vancouver and the potential to transform not just the landscape.
The orchard is in the Downtown Eastside, where many struggle with drug addiction, poverty and homelessness; the orchard with its pears, apples, quince, figs and persimmons creates a culinary contrast. The farm provides food to local residents and community kitchens, but it also supplies farmers markets and close to 30 restaurants.
“I don’t want people buying our food out of some sense of charity,” said Ableman, “I want them to buy our food because it’s the best quality food.”
Growing quality food is also very important at The Black Creek Community Farm, located in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood in Toronto – an area with a history of poverty, crime and high food insecurity where access to quality affordable food is difficult. The seven acre farm is nestled away, off a busy noisy street; inside it provides an oasis and limitless possibilities.