September 2010

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

Posted by: Erin Brown John on September 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm


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

Milk co-op under threat. After a lengthy legal battle, Alice Jongerden has resigned from her work at the Home on the Range milk cooperative in Chilliwack after being ordered earlier this week to stop milking the cows. In order to circumvent laws against the purchase and sale of raw milk, cooperative members purchase shares of dairy cattle and pay Ms. Jongerden to take care of them. While the provincial health authority maintains that raw milk is hazardous to health, raw milk activists are vocal supporters of consumer choice.

Underfunded. An Auditor General report reveals that BC’s Agricultural Land Commission is too underfunded and lacking in resources to adequately do it’s job. The report notes that the Commission is understaffed, is unable to put adequate resources into enforcement and relies on outdated maps and information. The Agricultural Land Commission is meant to protect farmland from development, but much of that land is at risk.

Eat Vancouver. Metro Vancouver unveiled a plan to promote local food. Among other things, they intend to create special labeling for local products, establish a farm school and to purchase farmland for a public trust.

Olympic Village. Negotiations continue between the City of Vancouver and prospective non-profit operators of the social housing units in the Olympic Village. Many non-profit organizations that had initially expressed interest in operating the units have expressed concern that the City’s terms and conditions would make it difficult for them to afford to manage the units.

Declining literacy. By 2031 it is estimated that 1.3 million Vancouver residents will have low literacy skills. However, I’m not sure why the Vancouver Sun chose to run this article with a picture of kids at school in Bountiful, BC. It seems unfair to implicate Mormon enclaves when the article specifically mentions that immigrants and the elderly are the targets of concern.

Image credit: Brett Beadle photo for The Globe and Mail