Sole Food Street Farms: Fresh Produce in Urban Settings
Established in 2009 by United We Can, enterprising nonprofit Sole Food Street Farms expanded upon the United We Can goal to create employment for inner city residents who have multiple barriers to traditional employment. Sole Food founders Michael Ableman and Seann Dory not only wanted to increase employment in lower income Vancouver neighbourhoods; they also wanted educate employees and communities in general about sustainability and the benefits of fresh produce.
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is known for high rates of poverty, drug use and sex trade activity. The founders of Sole Foods scoped out this area because they saw its transformative potential. Dory acknowleged that “the lot we [Sole Foods] are on was a dump surrounded by an active sex trade” but that “urban agriculture projects have the potential to really change the face, the dynamics, of the city.” Sole Foods has done so and continues to do so by transforming vacant urban land into street farms that grow artisan quality fruits and vegetables; empowering individuals by providing them with employment; and building a supportive community of farmers and food lovers by offering agricultural training.
Sole Food developed a system of raised moveable planters that can be stacked on a truck with a forklift and moved. This method is necessary in order to isolate the growing medium from contaminated urban soils, allow for production on pavement, and satisfy landowners who cannot make valuable urban land available on a long-term basis. Sole Food’s seeds and plant varieties are chosen based solely on taste and aesthetic quality, and all Sole Food produce is grown using the highest organic standards.
Sole Food’s fresh produce is available at farmer’s markets, local restaurants and retail outlets. “We envision a future where small farms thrive in every neighbourhood, where good food is accessible to all, and where everyone participates in the process,” says Ableman. “Sole Food is helping to fulfill this vision by marrying innovative farming methods with concrete social goals.”
To visit the Sole Food Street Farms website, click here.
To read The Canadian Organic Grower’s 2011 article on Sole Food Street Farms, click here.