Course:ENVR400/Correspondence With Experts

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Expert: Michael Levenston - City Farmer

Michael thinks that the most influential project topic would be to create a "land bank" of all land within Metro Vancouver that is available for urban agriculture. He says that there are a lot of young people that want to be urban farmers, but there is not enough land. There is a shift from non-commercial farming to commercial, and this is what he is studying right now. If we decide to work on this project he would be around to help us along the way.

Expert: Jordan Maynard

A UBC agroecology student that helped create "Southlands Farm"

Expert: Dr. Daniel Roehr

  • His view and research interests:
    • Urban farming more about social space than actually being able to sustain a city's food supply
      • social space in terms of community gardens, use it to educate people, professional farming for local people, opportunity for rehabilitating inmates, learning opportunity for students and kids (where food comes from, what it takes to grow it)
  • People he recommended researching:
    • Wendy Mendez
    • James Richardson- wrote thesis on 100 mile diet in Vancouver. Available at Library
    • Michael Ableman
    • Mark Bomfort
    • Mark Holland --> Bc landscape and agri--> wrote a book "Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food Systems in 21st Century Cities
      • "Awareness of the significant challenges our food supply system faces in the 21st century is growing rapidly. Agricultural Urbanism, rooted in a sustainable food systems approach and written by leaders in the planning and design fields, outlines a powerful strategy for understanding and taking action on the full-scope of sustainable food system opportunities in cities and how we can build them." [1]
      • book is not in library yet b/c just published
    • Slow food Vancouver
    • Look at references of these two papers:
      • Proksch, Gundula and Daniel Roehr. 2010. "Urban Cultural Greenways: The Potential of Urban Agriculture as Sustainable Urban Infrastructure". 98th Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Annual Meeting. March 4-7, 2010, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.
      • Proksch, Gundula and Daniel Roehr. 2010. "Hybridizing the American 'Parkway'". Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture 2010. May12-14, Maastricht, Netherlands.
  • Things we should be careful about
    • trying to "save the world" i.e. trying to find an umbrella solution for the city's food problems
    • It is very difficult and expensive to have a green roof on your home so we should be realistic about money issues
  • Gaps in research
    • No agronomist in region available so lack in information about things like if there is a 1/2 acre for growing food, how much does that produce and what's the real value of that production
    • What are the outcomes of water that comes off roof --> if used in urban agri, it will be full of fertilizers and things
  • Other notes
    • social implications important
    • we should argue the pros and cons of what's already happening
  • My Thoughts
    • in terms of a RS project, we could do the water thing he suggested or we could argue the pros and cons of what is already happening. This would be within our capacity as it would involve us researching more in depth as to what's happening around the city, what is working and what isn't. This could lead to a scientific analysis (a model perhaps) of the efficiency of urban agri in Vancouver. We could then recommend stuff to the city out of our analysis

Expert: Dr. Art Bomke

Information via e-mail

  • Gaps in knowledge: soil quality and soil indicators in Vancouver soils.
  • No complete soil profile of area therefore cannot have guidelines on recommendations. Soil quality will depend on area.
  • Grad students (UBC) have done some profiling of soils and community gardens.
    • Created handbook for community groups to have on hand.
    • Recommendation of creating a more complete handbook and continuing to test soils.
  • Suggests that there are lots of areas to approach, because of expertise recommended doing physical tests to figure out parameters.
    • Tests may be costly. Maybe partner up with a community group?

Information via appointment

  • Spoke about ideas of Vancouver's foodshed and finds it a pertinent and timely issue to be researching on.
  • He spoke about the launch of The Think&EatGreen@School - a program currently in the planning phase about how to connect school children to local foods via education and hands on activities (e.g. school garden).
  • Dr. Bomke is a co-investigator in this project and suggested I speak to UBC researcher Dr. Alejandro Rojas who is also in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems.

Expert: Dr. Wendy Mendes

Dr. Mendes is an adjunct professor in SCARP at UBC. Seems to supervise quite a few graduate students. Found thesis' related to local food security.

Recent literature by Dr. Mendes, found recent articles related to food security and Vancouver and governance. Has yet to reply back to correspondance

Expert: Christie Ruivo - Spud!

Here is the response I (MW) got from Christie Ruivo when I asked her about the Eco Audit on Spud!:

"The person who did those numbers is no longer in the same position. It was all done manually. However, I do know that there are companies out there to make much easier. It took him months to put it together. I have one company that may be able to help - If I find anything else, I will let you know."

Expert: Ian Walker - Left Coast Naturals

  • I (MW) emailed Ian asking where he thinks there is a need for scientific research related to Vancouver's food system. This is his response:

"I think the best scientific research that could be done is more of the farming side. I would be interested to see if we can grow more types of food in BC than we currently do. For example...could we grow more tree nuts here or dry pulses and beans. As a food manufacturer, I am limited in the raw materials that I can source from BC. Most of this is climate related....but it also may be that farmers are just "growing what they always grew" and not looking into growing new types of crops. This may take some scientific research. That is all I can think of for now. For me most of the issue lies in funding, cooperation and education more than research."

Expert: Marnie Newell SPEC

I (MW) emailed Marnie to get some hints about how to determine the baseline of school gardens and here was her response:

"Unfortunately I think this would be a very difficult task. I think the best you could do would be an estimate of how many school gardens there are and of the typical area. I personally know of about 20 school gardens in the city, but they are all used to different degrees and with different purposes (i.e. it may be a butterfly garden, or produce some food but not be entirely devoted to food growing). I'd say the average size would be somewhere around 30-60 square feet. Again these are just estimates.

Currently there is a research project going on through Land and Food Systems at UBC under Dr. Allejandro Rojas called Think And Eat Green At Schools that is researching this type of thing over the course of 5 years. You may do well to try to contact them."