In the shadow of Vancouver’s BC Place stadium, vibrant red tomatoes, strawberries, and lush leafy greens shoot up from their beds atop a former parking lot. This plot, named False Creek Farm, spans two acres across the urban landscape. It's the largest of four farms run by Sole Food Street Farms, an agriculture-based nonprofit, in the city’s Downtown Eastside.
Sole Food Street Farms is rooted heavily in agriculture, generating 50,000 pounds of produce annually from its different locations, but its central mission is to empower its employees and the local neighborhood, economically and socially. The organization works toward a multiproblem solution, providing fresh and locally grown produce to the city—using otherwise empty space—and providing work for underserved residents.
“We’re trying to use the same instincts, the same goals that would exist on a larger, open, rural farm and apply that to a smaller, more intensive space,” says Michael Ableman, executive director and cofounder of Sole Food.
When Sole Food started in 2009, cofounders Seann Dory and Ableman first thought of the social good urban farms would provide for Downtown Eastside, deemed Canada’s poorest neighborhood. To date, Sole Food Street Farms has employed almost 100 people. Most of the current 25 workers are local residents, many of whom have struggled with addiction issues or mental health problems. Ableman toldSierra that the farms provide employees with steady and meaningful work, an income, and an education about farming and agriculture.
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