Cultivating Community and Transforming Residential Landscapes
You might notice something unusual when walking through Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Instead of seeing patchy grass, many of the yards are teeming with rainbows of leafy greens, bushy tomato forests, and tangles of squash. These vibrant gardens are the work of City Beet Farm, an innovative urban agriculture business who sidestepped the common barrier that new farmers face of lack of access to land by converting conventional lawns to vegetable plots.
Image by Elana Evans via @Citybeetfarm
How City Beet found their beat
It all started back in 2013 when City Beet’s founders canvassed homeowners in Vancouver with requests to cultivate their yards in exchange for vegetables. What started as five yards has blossomed into fifteen, including a quarter acre in Southlands, all within biking distance of each other. City Beet’s current owners, Liana and Duncan, came on the scene in February 2021 to guide the farm through its ninth season. They have risen to the challenge, planting 70 varieties of veggies this year.
A portion of the produce goes to the homeowners in exchange for the use of their land. The remainder of the food is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where community members purchase shares in a weekly veggie and flower box that runs from June to October. CSA shares are paid for up front so that the farmers have the capital they need to cover production costs throughout the growing season. Excess produce is sold at farmer’s markets or to local businesses.
Growing food to cultivate community
City Beet’s plots certainly spark conversation around the neighbourhood. Passersby stop to chat with Liana, Duncan, and their co-farmers, and neighbours converse about the crops as they progress from seedlings to Eden-esque plants. People want to know the what, where, why, and how of the farm.
Urbanites rarely come face-to-face with cropland unless they seek it out. In Canada, fruit and vegetables travel an average of 3000 km from the farm to the table. With urban farming projects like City Beet Farm, this number shrinks to single digits as production and consumption occur in the same space. Not only does this reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food transportation, it also increases food security within the community.
Engaging with the local food system in this way improves food literacy and empowers people to make informed decisions when it comes to food and nutrition. It also builds a sense of community as individuals slow down, interact with each other, and enjoy the vibrancy of the gardens.
Learn more and get involved
Inspired by City Beet Farm and wondering how much food you could grow in the space your lawn takes up? Here are some resources to learn more and access your own parcel of land in Victoria:
Check out Young Agrarians’ U-Map to find garden-sharing opportunities in your community
Sign up for your very own plot at one of the City of Victoria’s community gardens
Take a look at the resources on the Growing Together website for a wealth of gardening advice