The Beauty of Urban Farming

The Beauty of Urban Farming

Food is universally engaging – everyone eats. Growing food together, preparing food together, and eating food together – these are timeless universal acts of community.

However, community doesn’t necessarily occur where there are lots of people – in fact, the opposite is sometimes true. In a densely populated city like Vancouver, community-building activities should be encouraged.

Urban farming is just such an activity. It’s not meant to replace rural agriculture, nor is the objective to be the primary food source for an entire city. The purpose of urban farming is to connect a city’s residents with their food, their community, and their environment by bringing the means of food production closer to the consumer, both physically and emotionally.


Urban farms transform under-utilized areas into accessible and engaging community space. Unlike parks, urban farms are actively stewarded by its farmers, with a constant presence that develops familiarity and encourages residents to stop and chat, ask questions, and give advice. People are curious about what’s growing and how to grow it. Little grannies who don’t speak English show young farmers how to more efficiently plant or weed or trellis, and wizened men drop off beers on a hot day. Children are amazed to see seeds unfurl into plants, and are delighted to pull carrots straight out of the ground. When purchasing produce at the neighbourhood farm stand, residents engage with each other and become more aware of what’s happening outside of their homes.


Much of our food travels many miles from countries where agriculture doesn’t take the environment into consideration, neither in farming practices nor in transport. It’s highly ironic because food is directly connected to the environment – a healthy environment means healthy plants and animals, which means healthier food. In contrast, urban farms practice organic growing principles, using land that is vacant or under-utilized, within a densely populated city. Urban farming is as close to eating organically and locally that urbanites can find, other than growing it themselves (which is also deeply satisfying).


Urban farms strive to reduce the barriers of price and location to make local organic produce accessible and affordable. Often, food that’s grown locally with organic principles has a higher financial cost than commercially produced food. However, commercially produced food doesn’t price in the externalities of pesticide and transport pollution, hormone and genetic engineering, and habitat destruction. From a sustainability perspective, urban farming is much more affordable.

Urban farming is a perfect example of eco-density, a concept that Sam Sullivan introduced in his time as the Mayor of Vancouver and continues to strive for. As Wendell Berry says, “eating is an agricultural act” – we in cities eat, and urban farming keeps us in touch with where it comes from.

Jennifer Chen lives in Yaletown and loves food. She grew up on a farm, and now is a strategic advisor to Fresh Roots Urban Farms and a marketing executive at LYFE Kitchen. After 10 years away, she’s delighted to be back in Vancouver, the city of her heart.


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