During our SFU tour last Friday and Saturday, we visited SoleFood’s new location on a parking lot at Pacific and Carrall. This large intensive urban agriculture site is very impressive. It was wonderful to see the row upon row of portable containers filled with greens, eggplants, radishes and other edibles. SoleFood sells at six farmers markets, to Vancouver restaurants and they have a small community shared agriculture program (where you buy shares in the farm and then get fresh produce through the growing season).
We also noticed a mountain of compost on site. Some of the staff were shoveling it into a bin so that it can be hauled to a large composting facility in Delta. SoleFood is not permitted to compost on site. There are city bylaws, regional and provincial regulations all getting in the way. One of the concerns is leachate runoff. Surprising, given that this is one of the most contaminated sites in the city, surely leachate from fruit and vegetables couldn’t make matters worse.
Strathcona Business Improvement Association has hit the same barriers in trying to set up their Resource Park. Thankfully both groups have champions inside the various government bodies trying to get them through the hoops. Some of the regulations are just plain ridiculous, especially around building codes. At the Strathcona site, they were told they had to house the automated composting units. Staff wanted to use metal shipping containers. The city had fire hazard concerns and insisted the shelters must be made of wood. A head scratcher.
The City is pushing urban agriculture and supporting the development of neighbourhood food networks. They want community and business to find a way to manage their own waste. They are serious about achieving their greenest city goals. But when our students heard about some of the policies and regulations getting in the way of great projects, they said, “Seriously?”