Course:FRST370/Sole Food Street Farms, Urban Food Farms in Vancouver, B.C., Canada: A history and assessment of multi-stakeholder processes (2008 - present)

From UBC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Description

SOLEFood Headquarter Farm, 299 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver, B.C.

Sole Food Street Farms is an urban agriculture project in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, founded in 2008 by Michael Ableman and Seann Dory.[1] This project intends to transform vacant urban landscape spaces into places that nurture the growth of artisan-grade fruits and vegetables - to be made available to local restaurants, farmers' markets, as well as retail outlets. A mission of Sole Food Street Farms is to empower individuals that have limited resources with job opportunities, agricultural training, and inclusiveness and acceptance in a supportive community that consists of farmers and food lovers. This concept is especially significant in the infamous Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, which is known as one of North America’s worst slums. Sole Foods acts as a player that addresses chronic problems in the neighborhood through the creation of these urban farms.[2] The idea presented herein is promising for its contribution to the goal of food security of the city of Vancouver and its residents. However, implications such as land tenure arrangements, financial structure, changing city policies, and conflicts of interests among stakeholders pose challenges to the establishment of such urban farms and their operations.

Tenure arrangements

All three current SOLEFood sites are owned by the City of Vancouver. Past mayor, Gregor Robertson, and the city manager Sadhu Johnston recognized SOLEFood as the keystone in their city plans, such as Greenest City Action Plan, and Healthy Cities Program. In establishing their first site at the parking lot of Astoria Hotel on Hastings Street (769 East Hastings Street), thence expansion to other two city-owned locations, the City of Vancouver cooperated in permit issuance, leases, and grant thanks to the internal help of the past senior city planner [3]. By receiving the solid support of the city itself, SOLEFood tenure structure assumes more security than having their sites at private development properties. Two of their current sites (220 Terminal Avenue and 299 West 1st Avenue) are located adjacent to the city’s temporary modular housing projects. As a commercial farm in an urban area, a challenge of the land security for the operation is the conventional understanding of the city bureaucracy and public. A general misconception is that agriculture does not belong in the modern city, thus creating barriers for such entities as SOLEFood has to manage to clear. The reality of the landowners’ desire to lease their land for a long period of time is a very difficult obstacle to overcome, since the urban land in Metro Vancouver is too valuable for the owners. Seeking lands with sympathetic ownership, building a relationship with the owner is essential for the successful establishment.[4]

Administrative arrangements

The City of Vancouver holds rights of permit issuance, land lease. Hence the City is on the top tier of the organization’s administrative arrangement. The organization’s administrative structure: Co-foundersMichael Ableman & Seann Dory; Management team consists of 6 staff; ‘Mission staff’ – 25 farmers in highest season, mostly residents of Downtown Eastside

Affected Stakeholders

Affected stakeholders are as listed : project owners (Michael Ableman and Seann Dory); management team, ‘Mission Staff’; the City of Vancouver as the landowner.

Within above list, the Mission Staff are the most vulnerable, due to seasonal workload and their current personal issues. However, SOLEFood has been very supportive of their Mission Staff: as one of the first urban farmers at SOLEFood, Kenny, states “I’ve worked jobs where I’ve made a lot more money, but now I actually love my job, I love going to work. I still struggle, but this gives me an opportunity to help others.”[5] “When I miss work, it’s not ‘Why didn’t you come to work?’ It’s ‘Are you okay?’” [6] SOLEFood persists in their mission, by providing jobs with purpose and the sense of community, giving employees confidence and supportive environment to be accepted as they are, without judgement of their circumstances.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

The social actors who are interested stakeholders from outside the community include various investors and grantors, including a commercial bank, the city, local restaurants, as well as local shops and respective customers. One of the more prominent interested stakeholders of Sole Foods is Vancity Credit Union, which been with them since the beginning and has provided the needed financial capital for their expansion. Sole Food has been provided with a loan from Vancity totaling one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, along with a grant amounting to seventy-five thousand dollars.[7] In addition to Vancity’s contributions, Sole Foods has received grants from the Central City Foundation, the City of Vancouver, Eco Soil, the Radcliffe Foundation, and the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., in support of its operations. The grant that was given on behalf of the City of Vancouver had totaled to fifty thousand dollars. It has also been reported that the land that is leased to Sole Foods is at a rate of a dollar per year. Produce is supplied to thirty farmers’ markets throughout the city, including in that figure, local restaurants.[8]. Some examples of restaurants to which produce is supplied can include Cafe Medina, Homer Street Cafe, Miku, Fairmont Hotel, Ubuntu Canteen, and more, as was mentioned by a manager at the headquarters in a one-on-one interview. Customers are also part of the interested stakeholder demographic since they are the ones who buy food produce and drive the financial return cycle which is what results in more employment opportunities for people of Downtown Eastside in Vancouver through securing a supported payroll.[9]. [10]

In a summary of relative power, while the investors and grantors are all very important for providing the capital needed for Sole Foods to expand their project and operations, the customers can also be seen to have a considerable amount of power.[11][12] This amount of power customers have is since it is they who shop at the restaurants and farmers’ markets. In which they are the ones seen to significantly and collectively raise financial return for Sole Foods from every purchase. This financial return is what helps contribute to the year-round payrolls and employment opportunities.[13][14] The combination of investors, grantors, and customers have all helped Sole Foods to progress further and expand.

Discussion

There are, in fact, several different aims and intentions of the Sole Food urban agriculture project, all of which lead to a greater goal of providing employment. This is especially so in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside which is notorious for containing one of North America’s worst urban slums.[15] Sole Foods’ first and foremost aim was to bring food and agriculture into an urban setting by transforming vacant lots. In a more profound sense, this primary intention involved Sole Foods in making food local and present in the city in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions. If food is grown and produced and transported locally, then there is no need for it to be shipped hundreds or even thousands of kilometers for it to reach on someone’s plate, because of it reducing or eliminating such a vast distance. Furthermore, waste reduction is also something that is made possible with Sole Foods because waste that is associated with food transport, storage, and refrigeration is eliminated by having the food sourced locally. This reduction includes getting rid of food packaging that is otherwise part of keeping the food fresh over its long and distant journey.[16] Currently, Sole Foods has become the most massive urban farming project that is present in North America. [17]

A higher aim and intention of Sole Foods, however, was and still is bringing a sense of community to the Downtown Eastside by introducing employment that gives people a new chance at life, in what can be called a changing economy. The changing economy can be seen as wealth no longer referring to money, but the fresh air one experiences, as well as a sense of family and community - that is real wealth. [18][19] There have been many people who previously faced roadblocks in finding employment, such as those who suffered drug and substance abuse and mental health problems. But Sole Foods has changed that by providing people with a new meaning to life and making them feel like they belong in society, which has also resulted in these people to complete rehabilitation.[20][21] Since Sole Foods highly emphasizes employment in helping people who have or are facing employment roadblocks, they have a plan for a year-round payroll for their employees. Part of the plan consists of having a vast diversity of plants that are grown and produced regardless of season, which is something that brings in financial return over the year. Another idea that can also be seen as a plan is the fact that urban agriculture is something that requires a lot of skilled labor.[22] What could be a better way than there being such sizeable year-round food production (employment), which is significant in providing people the opportunity to gain skill? [23]


The fact that Sole Food has gone from introducing urban agriculture to becoming the biggest urban farming project in North America is a significant sign of relative success. On the side of failures, there are not any to have been reported at past or present. A positive future outlook is still seen as was mentioned in a news article from 2012 in which it was mentioned how the staff quickly grew from seven to twenty-one, and how food production would reach a projected two hundred thousand level up from the then-current, ten thousand pound level.[24]

Assessment

As was mentioned previously, while the investors and grantors are significant for providing the capital needed for Sole Foods to expand their project and operations, the customers also have a considerable amount of power.[25][26] The amount of power that customers have, again, can be explained such that it is they who are the ones to shop at the restaurants and farmers’ markets. It is this collective purchasing power of customers, which results in the rise of financial return for Sole Foods from every purchase. Again, it is this financial return that helps contribute to the year-round payrolls and employment opportunities.[27][28] The combination of investors, grantors, and customers have been essential to assisting Sole Foods to expand operations and progress ahead. When governance is looked at for the interested stakeholders, the actions between investors, grantors, and customers can be viewed as equal since each of their efforts has resulted in support of Sole Foods. Again, investors and grantors provide the capital needed for expansion, while the purchasing power of customers results in support of year-round payrolls and employment. On the other hand, however, when discussing governance between the affected stakeholders and the interested stakeholders, the power that the affected stakeholders hold is much less than the interested stakeholders. This unequal distribution is because for the affected stakeholders, the people at Sole Foods, to operate, there are influencing factors such as permit issuance, leasing, and further grants from the city. The city can be seen as both affected and interested stakeholders since they want to support Sole Foods while trying to keep it because it is after all part of the city. The city belongs to the highest tier of governance because they own the land. If the city’s policy on the greenest city and healthiest city program faced changes, then it could potentially impact Sole Foods in terms of vulnerability. However, the risk of vulnerability seems very small, according to where the city currently holds its plans on the promotion of having a green and healthy city.

Recommendations

One recommendation that can be made for this urban agriculture project is that more steps can be taken regarding reducing visible seasonal fluctuations in food production. The goal can be to allow people of Downtown Eastside to keep working all year long on a payroll. To deal with this, some steps that can be taken can include adding to the already vast diversity of plants that already exist for food production. This added diversity is so that there can be more of different types of foods grown in other seasons. Another step that can be taken is to introduce greenhouses, if not already present, so that food from one season can potentially be produced in another season. If greenhouses are already present, then a goal can be to introduce more of them through investment.

An additional recommendation can perhaps be working to increase engagement so that more people from Downtown Eastside who face roadblocks can seek employment and a new purpose in life. This engagement would be to help vulnerable people to move away from their past life through self-rehabilitation since working at Sole Foods would make them feel that they belong in the community. Engagement can perhaps be increased by having volunteers or staff, who were once affected by drug or substance abuse, or who had mental health problems, to visit others in the Eastside. Through meeting vulnerable individuals, stories can be shared, and the messages of community, care, and help can be promoted to save lives.

References

  1. Sole Food Street Farms. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sole_Food_Street_Farms
  2. Sole Food Street Farms. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from https://solefoodfarms.com/
  3. Ableman.M. (2016) Street farm : growing food, jobs, and hope on the urban frontier. pp47. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Junction, VT, USA.
  4. Ableman.M. (2016) Street farm : growing food, jobs, and hope on the urban frontier. pp83. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Junction, VT, USA.
  5. Ableman.M. (2016) Street farm : growing food, jobs, and hope on the urban frontier. pp13. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Junction, VT, USA.
  6. Ableman.M. (2016) Street farm : growing food, jobs, and hope on the urban frontier. pp15. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Junction, VT, USA.
  7. Vancity Credit Union. SOLEfood transforms vacant urban spaces into farms on the street. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://www.vancity.com/AboutVancity/InvestingInCommunities/StoriesOfImpact/Food/Solefood/.
  8. Cole Y. Georgia Straight. (2013, July 7th) Solefood launches urban orchard in Vancouver. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 fromhttps://www.straight.com/news/398531/solefood-launches-urban-orchard-vancouver.
  9. Cole Y. Georgia Straight. (2013, July 7th) Solefood launches urban orchard in Vancouver. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 fromhttps://www.straight.com/news/398531/solefood-launches-urban-orchard-vancouver.
  10. Kimmett C. The Tyee. (2012, July 9th) Big step for big city farming – Sole food’s new downtown Vancouver site grows food, jobs and the business case for urban agriculture. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/09/Solefood-Rising/
  11. Vancity Credit Union. SOLEfood transforms vacant urban spaces into farms on the street. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://www.vancity.com/AboutVancity/InvestingInCommunities/StoriesOfImpact/Food/Solefood/
  12. Cole Y. Georgia Straight. (2013, July 7th) Solefood launches urban orchard in Vancouver. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://www.straight.com/news/398531/solefood-launches-urban-orchard-vancouver
  13. Cole Y. Georgia Straight. (2013, July 7th) Solefood launches urban orchard in Vancouver. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://www.straight.com/news/398531/solefood-launches-urban-orchard-vancouver
  14. Kimmett C. The Tyee. (2012, July 9th) Big step for big city farming – Sole food’s new downtown Vancouver site grows food, jobs and the business case for urban agriculture. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/09/Solefood-Rising/
  15. SOLEFood Street Farms. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://solefoodfarms.com/
  16. Green Living: Downtown Eastside's Sole Food Street Farms help entire city. (2016, September 20). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://www.straight.com/life/775476/green-living-downtown-eastsides-sole-food-street-farms-help-entire-city
  17. Our Story. (2018, February 19). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://solefoodfarms.com/our-story/
  18. A New Economy Trailer. (2016, October 3). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB5w5Up8vs&app=desktop
  19. Kimmett C. The Tyee. (2012, July 9th) Big step for big city farming – Sole food’s new downtown Vancouver site grows food, jobs and the business case for urban agriculture. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/09/Solefood-Rising/
  20. Our Story. (2018, February 19). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://solefoodfarms.com/our-story/
  21. A New Economy Trailer. (2016, October 3). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB5w5Up8vs&app=desktop
  22. A New Economy Trailer. (2016, October 3). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB5w5Up8vs&app=desktop.
  23. Kimmett C. The Tyee. (2012, July 9th) Big step for big city farming – Sole food’s new downtown Vancouver site grows food, jobs and the business case for urban agriculture. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/09/Solefood-Rising/
  24. Kimmett C. The Tyee. (2012, July 9th) Big step for big city farming – Sole food’s new downtown Vancouver site grows food, jobs and the business case for urban agriculture. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://thetyee.ca/News/2012/07/09/Solefood-Rising/
  25. SOLEFood Street Farms. Retrieved November 29th, 2019 from https://solefoodfarms.com/
  26. Green Living: Downtown Eastside's Sole Food Street Farms help entire city. (2016, September 20). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://www.straight.com/life/775476/green-living-downtown-eastsides-sole-food-street-farms-help-entire-city
  27. Green Living: Downtown Eastside's Sole Food Street Farms help entire city. (2016, September 20). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://www.straight.com/life/775476/green-living-downtown-eastsides-sole-food-street-farms-help-entire-city
  28. Our Story. (2018, February 19). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from https://solefoodfarms.com/our-story/



Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST370. It has been viewed over 105 times.