Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm

New City Market. Community groups are busy planning the creation of a new hub for local food. The New City Market is meant to to fill the gap between producers and consumers of local food in BC, and give farmers direct access to their markets, as well as provide facilities for cooking and learning for the public.

Buy BC. The BC Agriculture Council wants the government to spend more money on marketing local food and assisting farmers and retailers with information about organic standards. Several programs have been funded in the past, but have been cut.

Freedom of information. Earlier this week Paul Hancock, Vancouver’s freedom of information officer resigned from his position at the City, leaving the City to reconsider how to deal with it’s freedom of information requests.

Olympic Village. The City of Vancouver is trying hard to recoup nearly a billion dollars that are owed to it by the developer of the Olympic Village, but can’t guarantee that it will be able to collect the full amount.

The City has not yet approved a new marketing plan for the condos that would see the condos sold at substantially lower prices. The City has not come to an agreement with the developer as to how the shortfall will be made up.

Meanwhile, the City has chosen the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C. to manage the social housing in the Olympic Village, so those units may finally be occupied before the end of the year.

Rental housing. Construction began on a new market rental housing complex at Granville and Davie. The project has been made possible by the City’s Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing program.

Image credit: CityLab

Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Homes and books. Housing advocates are urging the city to consider including social housing in a new library branch that is to be constructed on East Hastings.

Opsal Steel. Two towers are planned for the Opsal Steel site south of False Creek. The 90 year old building is one of the best remaining examples of west coast early industrial architecture. The plan calls for portions of the original building to be saved. The building was listed as one of Heritage Vancouver’s Top Ten Endangered Sites in 2001 and 2002.
Viaducts. Anthony Perl, director of urban studies at SFU, wants to tear down Vancouver’s viaducts. He says the land is better suited for social housing and other projects and represents a huge unmet potential.

Bike lanes. City Caucus looks at why separated bike lanes are so controversial in Vancouver and elsewhere.

Salmon. Scientists now believe that the unusually large salmon run this year was caused by the eruption of the Katsatochi Volcano in 2008, which led to a greater amount of phytoplankton in the water for the fish to feed on.

Meanwhile, the Cohen commission is still looking for answers as to why last year’s salmon run was so small and debate continues regarding how best to promote biodiversity without harming the fishing industry.

Local food infrastructure. In their ongoing series searching for solutions for fostering a local sustainable food system, The Tyee looks at Mennonite produce cooperatives and auction houses in Ontario.

Image credit: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm


Remembering Terry Fox. The Terry Fox monument at BC Place is slated for demolition and will be replaced with a new monument designed by Douglas Coupland. The architect of the original monument is understandably upset, but acknowledges that it was never popular with the public.

Cycling infrastructure. While improving cycling infrastructure in is a priority for many municipalities, they have been having trouble trying to secure funding and support from the province.

Great Beginnings. The City of Vancouver is currently looking for proposals for new murals that “offer new perspectives on Vancouver and represent a range of Vancouver’s diverse cultural communities.” The program is part of an overall plan to reduce graffiti in the city.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Straight has a great gallery of images of the mural on Beatty Street that is nearing completion.

Backyard chickens. The City of Surrey is considering whether to allow chickens on urban lots.

Unsung heroes. An article in Grist calls for more acknowledgement of the roles of women in the sustainable food movement. While the article’s focus is American, it’s good to look around and take stock of all the people, male and female, in our communities that perhaps aren’t being recognized.

Photo credit: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm


Can Vancouver feed itself? Last week’s Food and Beers event was a huge success. Read about it here on The Tyee. We’re planning on making film footage available from the event available soon so stay tuned!

Slim pickings. The Vancouver Fruit Tree Project is reporting that due to the poor weather this spring, they are receiving less calls and collecting less fruit for food banks and local charities this year.

New model for housing. Vancity Credit Union and Westbank are partnering with community organizations in the Downtown East Side to make new condos a little moreaffordable for people with moderate incomes. The units will sell for well below the normal market value. In exchange for the reduction in price, residents will have to volunteer in the Downtown East Side and will not have access to a parking stall.

Olympic Village. Bob Rennie joins the public debate about the Olympic Village development this week, stating that Michael Geller’s statements that social housing is scaring buyers away and the ensuing debate is making it difficult to market the project. Geller clarified his position in the Vancouver Observer, stating that he never meant his statements to be taken the way that they have been interpreted in the debate.

Putting down routes. An article in Regarding Place looks at where new immigrants choose to settle in the Metro Vancouver region and finds that access to transit is key.

Great Beginnings mural program. A new mural in Chinatown pays homage to philosopher Lao Tzu.

Image credit: Wayne Leidenfrost, PNG

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 12, 2010 at 12:40 pm


A round-up of some things we’ve been following.

Safekeeping. First United Church announced this week that it is desperately in need of funding to keep their storage facility in operation. The facility allows Downtown East Side residents to store their belongings in a secure environment, but will close if they are not able to secure the necessary funds.

Social stigma? Mixing social housing with high-end developments is not new to Vancouver, however, the sluggish sales of units in the Olympic Village has reopened the debate about the social engineering of communities and provision of social housing. Development consultant Michael Geller stated early last week that the inclusion of social housing within the development may be hurting sales. Very understandably he has been met with a lot of criticism for this view and unfortunately the debate turned nasty.

How much does it help? Bob Rennie and architect Peter Busby debate the merits of green building.

One book, not Vancouver. Vancouver Public Library named The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as this year’s One Book One Vancouver. While conceding that it’s an old favourite, Terry Lavender questions whether a more Vancouver-centric book or author could have been chosen instead.

Speak up. Mero Vancouver launched a new website called Renters Speak Up to encourage renters to participate in discussions about affordable housing in the region. Though housing policy affects them, they tend to be absent in discussions. That is about to change, at least for renters who speak English and have internet access.

Can Vancouver feed itself? Join us this Thursday at the museum for the next ‘Food and Beers’ discussion, hosted by The Tyee’s David Beers. Free with admission.

Image credit: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 4, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Last month Granville Magazine ran a contest looking for the best story about home canning and preserving, inspired by the Wall of Preserves in the Home Grown exhibit.

They received several excellent submissions, each touching in their own way the themes of home, family and childhood memories. Who would have known that home canning was so inspiring?

In the end, the winner is senoritaJen, who reflects on the magic of canning peaches:

Kitchen Alchemy
When I was a child, canning seemed as intimidating and thrilling as alchemy. The huge enamel canner was an imposing sight, as it took up most of space on the stovetop and emitted billowing clouds of hot steam. It was remarkable to me that my mother and I could produce something that was sealed in glass jars and looked like it could have come from the store.

It was my task to peel the peaches, which I did while perched on a sturdy kitchen chair, letting the fuzzy skins drop into a large orange mixing bowl. Then later I would observe from a safe distance as my mother fearlessly retrieved the filled jars from the boiling cauldron. We would get such satisfaction at the end of the afternoon, proudly surveying all our mason jars lined up in neat rows on the table, with the sun streaming through the window and turning the peaches into gold.

So congratulations senoritaJen, enjoy your MOV prize pack!

Read the submission from the runner-up here.

Image credit: E. Brown-John

Posted by: Erin Brown John on October 1, 2010 at 5:15 pm


Another round-up of the things we’ve been following.

The making of. The Vancouver Observer ran a great article with some background on how the Davie Village Community Garden came to be.

Poetry in transit. Ever wondered why there are poems posted inside buses?The Tyee has answers.

Accolades! Congratulations to the students at UBC who won an Emmy for their documentary about the dumping of E-waste in Ghana! Kudos for helping to raise the profile of a very important issue.

The headaches continue. BC Housing has rejected all bids to operate the social housing at the Olympic Village. The City is now looking into the possibility of having to take on the financial burden of guaranteeing loans for potential operators, but the situation has provided another setback in it’s efforts to have the units occupied by winter.

Meanwhile, the developer of the Olympic Village has been having difficulty paying off it’s loan to the City. The City is now going after other assets held by the company and finding that many are already mortgaged.

Recommended viewing. Finally, if you have a bit of time to kill, check out 50 videos about urban planning via Democrablog.

Image credit: Steve Luscher via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm


The food at last week’s Local Iron Chef event was donated by the Home Grow-In Grocer, one of the locations featured in the Home Grown exhibit. Kaylin Pearce and I visited the shop during our summer work terms to speak to the owner, Deb Reynolds, about her business and local food.

In our research leading up to our visit we heard nothing but wonderful things about this place, so we were excited to pay it a visit. We wanted to profile the store because for most city-dwellers, we relate to food as consumers. The easiest way to make a difference is to put your money where your heart is and choose ethical products over their alternatives.

The grocery store is unique because it is run with a strong social and environmental conscience. It stocks foods grown and produced in BC, a variety of vegetables, fruit, meat, grains, baked goods, dairy products, preserves and honey. Reynolds explained that she was very picky about the quality and provenance of the goods she sells, recalling times when she had pulled products off her shelves because key ingredients had not been produced locally.

Situated on the corner of two quiet residential streets, the store has become a gathering place for people in the neighbourhood. A few people sat in the shade on lawn chairs that had been placed underneath the trees outside, enjoying the atmosphere.

On the afternoon we visited the store was a hub of activity with deliveries, volunteers and staff setting up for the Home Grow-In’s Buyers Club Co-op. The program aims to make food from local farms more available to people through a harvest box program. Once per week produce is delivered from Metro Vancouver farms to the store where it is boxed and then delivered to subscribers. The program has been so successful that Reynolds is now launching a similar program to distribute locally produced meat.

In addition to this, Reynolds takes an active role in helping the community. She has an agreement with fruit tree growers in the interior to donate culled fruit - edible but too blemished to sell in stores - so she can distribute it to the Surrey Food Bank. To date she has donated significant time and several thousand pounds of produce that would otherwise have rotted. She says that this, as well as her business are part of her effort to give back to communities that helped her when she was in need.

Image credit: Brian Harris

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm


Another round-up of things we’ve been following this week:

Two block diet. The Vancouver Sun ran a great article this week about a small community that has formed around producing local food. Some residents in the Riley Park-Little Mountain area decided to pool their resources and help each other turn their back yards into gardens. They now share a communal compost, greenhouse, pressure-canner, laying hens and bee hives and provide an example of what can be accomplished when people work together.

Marine Gateway. The Marine Gateway Project continues to face opposition from many residents in the Cambie Corridor. Architect Nigel Baldwin is one of the latest people to voice concern. Francis Bula presents a document he prepared that visualizes the proposed development in other locations in Vancouver revealing just how large it would be.

However, Bula brings up a good point that it may be more appropriate to judge the individual parts of the development, rather than condemn the whole. For example, the proposed development would include community gathering spaces, something that is currently lacking in Marpole.

Still, others argue that projects like these are essential to drive down the cost of housing and increase supply.

The Charles. The new pub in the Woodwards building has sparked some controversy over the direction of development and revitalization in the area. Some residents and advocates for the Downtown East Side are concerned that the new businesses opening in the neighbourhood offer products and services at prices well beyond what many residents can afford, speeding gentrification.

Hornby bike lane again. The City of Vancouver released drawings of the blocks affected by the Hornby bike lane. The plans continue to draw the ire of the business community. I have been particularly enjoying following Gordon Price’s thoughts on bike lanes in the city and the current conflict between businesses and planners.

Breaking car-dependence. Another thing we’ve been following is the Tyee’s series Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities, about planning cities to minimize the need for cars.

Image credit: Les Bazso, PNG, from the Vancouver Sun

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm


There are many ways to tell a story, and part of curating an exhibit is making the decision as to how to present it to people with the finite space, time and resources you have available. In the case of Home Grown, the partnership between MOV and FarmFolkCityFolk had a huge impact on how the exhibit took form and eventually came to feature the photography of Brian Harris.

These photographs introduce you to people and places that you might not otherwise have access to. They provide brief glimpses into several different kinds of activities relating to agriculture around Metro Vancouver, both urban and rural, community-based and private. The images themselves are very beautiful to look at.

But as with any medium, photography has it’s limits. There is only so much information that can be presented in a single photograph. Certain things are included in the frame while others are not.

As an exhibit, Home Grown provides a broad overview of many things that are currently happening in agriculture around Metro Vancouver, but no one story is explored in any particular depth.

Over the summer Kaylin Pearce and I traveled around to various locations to meet some of the people and places in the photographs. We wanted to talk to them about what they do, how they got into producing food and what they get out of it.

The project had it’s setbacks at times. There were equipment and transit mishaps. Scheduling interviews was a hassle. The summer is a busy season for many farmers, and understandably, many have little time to donate to talking to summer students. Others declined to be interviewed for other reasons. Some of the exhibit images were taken in locations that we were not able to visit within the time that we were allotted.

But over the course of the summer we were able to visit and speak to several individuals who were kind enough to take the time to share their thoughts and spaces with us.

Over the next several weeks I will be sharing a bit about the experience and what we talked about through film, blog posts and photographs. I hope you’ll follow along.

Image credit: E. Brown-John


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