Are the Garden City Lands viable for agriculture?

It depends on one’s perspective.

Evidently a lot of Richmond taxpayer money has been spent on consultants who have discovered that the Garden City Lands may not be viable for kinds of farming that no one has been envisioning in the first place. They revealed their discoveries at the General Purposes Committee meeting on Feb. 18, 2008, and they re-revealed some of them at the regular Richmond Council meeting of Feb. 25.

The consultants were followed to the microphone by Richmond residents who have actually worked similar Richmond land with kinds of farming that are actually being proposed for the Garden City Lands. It is urban agriculture, which has yielded great results for De Whalen at the old community gardens at what became Fantasy Gardens and, much later, for Arzeena Hamir at the Richmond Sharing Farms. It is described in the Richmond Poverty Response Sustainable Food Systems Park concept and Kwantlen University College’s Urban Agriculture Education concept proposed by Dr. Kent Mullinix, with horticulture student endorsement from Shane McMillan.

How would the Garden City lands be agriculturally viable?

  • The envisioned agriculture would be organic. Most of the property could be used for organic farming immediately, without a transition period. That could lead rapidly to organic certification, with a higher dollar value for the produce.
  • The envisioned agriculture would have community-building values, with diverse citizens working near each other to grow food for their own use and for sharing. Dollar figures don’t capture that.
  • The envisioned agriculture would educate residents of all ages, from the city children who might otherwise have no idea where food comes from to the many older residents who could learn to grow their own food on the Garden City Lands or at their homes.
  • The envisioned agriculture would be the hub of agri-tourism in Richmond, not just directly bringing in tourism revenue but also drawing tourist business to hotels and restaurants, as well as to various farms that choose to encourage agri-tourism.
  • The envisoned agriculture, though at one end of the range of agriculture in Richmond, would engender appreciation for the whole range. People engaged in urban agriculture would better appreciate traditional farmers and vice versa.
  • The envisioned agriculture would use rainwater from the City Centre and the rest of the lands. The reservoir would be one or more small lakes that would enable both drainage and irrigation. This would make Richmond a little more self-sufficient in water as well as in food, and it would demonstrate why Richmond should respect the irrigation and drainage needs of farmland.

This list could go on and on. The point is that viability is relative to purpose, and the Garden City Lands would be viable in their own ways while enhancing the overall viability of Richmond agriculture.

The agricultural consultants that the City brings in to try to justify removing the Garden City Lands from the ALR are probably nice people who are saying what seems right to them—while missing the point. In contrast, Richmond residents like De and Arzeena with first-hand experience of urban agriculture in Richmond know what they’re talking about.



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