Back in December 2009, I wrote a post on food hubs and floated the idea of resurrecting the Stanley Park Farmyard as a west end food hub, complete with chickens, and an urban farm. The Vancouver Park Board had just cut this popular children’s attraction from its budget, closing it in January 2010. Then they began to entertain proposals from outside groups who might be interested in taking over the site. In the spring of 2010, I received a letter from a woman who was interested in saving the petting zoo and corresponded with her about her project. I added my two bits about turning the site into an actual working demonstration farm. Here’s an excerpt from my letter to her:
The city has just legalized backyard chickens, so perhaps you could be the site for workshops around that and maybe even the shelter for abandoned chickens that the city is looking to set up. Sounds like there will be money for that….Perhaps this could be the west end food hub….So it could potentially be a site for a farmers’ market, maybe other forms of food distribution, food storage, processing? … I am not sure if there is space for growing food, but that would be good too. I also think that it would be better to set up your society as a social enterprise, rather than a pure non-profit. Relying on grants is really risky biz these days and full time work. Perhaps you could sell eggs? Other produce?
I gave her a number of contacts in the food movement to help her and her small band of supporters develop the idea. They submitted their proposal to the Park Board, but nothing ever came of it. Until now? There’s a civic election coming up this November and some times good ideas get resurrected for political gain.
In the September 16th issue of the Vancouver Courier, Sandra Thomas writes that one of the new Park Board candidates is using the born again farmyard idea in his election platform. Now you might think it would be obvious for the Vision-dominated council, who has been busy legalizing backyard chickens, hugely supportive of urban agriculture, and active in the development of food networks and a food hub. Ironically, it is a Non-Partisan Association candidate who is proposing that the Farmyard become a working urban farm. Ironic, because that party has been attacking Vision’s vision of chickens in backyards and wheat fields in front yards.
The west end, a densely populated community wedged between Stanley Park and English Bay, has row upon row of high rise apartments and in desperate need of space to grow food and a place to compost their food waste. It still seems like a good idea to me, no matter which party wants to farm it for all its worth.