When was the last time you were walking through the city on a dreary winter morning, feeling less than inspired among the endless shades of grey, passing by empty lots or abandoned alleyways, when you notice a flower growing out of a crack in the pavement? Or maybe a bundle of tomatoes growing on a balcony nearby? Chances are it probably didn’t change your life - but I bet it made you feel just a little bit better, didn’t it? The change might be small at first, but urban agriculture has not only the potential to feed us, over time it can also transform the way we see our city and our own connection to it.
If you’re new to this whole urban agriculture thing, let me take a moment to explain. Its official definition is, “the growing, processing and distribution of food and other products through plant cultivation and seldom raising livestock in and around cities for feeding local populations,” (in other words, the growing of food and the raising of certain animals within city limits). It can be separated into 2 main categories - urban farming and urban gardening, the latter being the most common. From balconies to back yards, to rooftops
and community gardens, there are plenty of ways to grow food in a city.
You might be wondering to yourself why this all even matters.
The United Nations released a statement that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities - and we are no exception here on Vancouver Island. With more and more people moving to our urban centres, the land needed to provide for our residents is increasing in both size and price, making it less economically viable to purchase land for agricultural purposes. Not to mention increasing topsoil degradation, people feeling disconnected from the food they eat, and the environmental impact brought on by the distance our food needs to travel to reach us. While there are many ways to tackle this issue, to us a big part of the solution is urban agriculture.
The benefits are significant - beyond being able to offer fresh, affordable and low-carbon food, urban agriculture also beautifies previously underutilized or abandoned areas, increasing the value of the space. It fosters more community relationships, and the time spent outdoors improves the overall quality of life for local residents by decreasing depression and anxiety, among other health benefits. An increase in community gardens and farms can also mean more economic opportunity and development of green skills, among many, many other advantages.
But the challenges can also be a barrier for many, with increasing land costs, lack of space, soil contamination, water access, the initial start-up costs and continued maintenance - it can be tough to know where or how to begin. That’s why below, you’ll find some information about some of the initiatives around town, places you can go to learn about gardening in the city, and how to get involved.
Urban agriculture has the ability to move people in different ways. But at its simplest form, it allows us slow down in a busy city and find moments of peace. Although it can be tough to take that first step, thankfully Victoria is a great place to start!
Urban Agriculture Initiatives in Victoria
How You Can Get Involved