Urban agriculture education, Post 3

Can Richmond get its act together to be the world leader in urban agriculture education?

In this series, we’re drawing on a presentation to Richmond council by Kent Mullinix, PhD, of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. His position as Director, Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, suggests that he knows what he’s talking about. I can add from experience that listening to him confirms that. He is also familiar with Richmond, where he is doing research with the apple orchard near the community garden at the South Dyke and collaborating with the community and city staff at the Richmond Farm School.

In this “Urban agriculture education” series:

  • In Post 1, Dr. Mullinix showed why the time has come for urban agriculture.
  • In Post 2, he described his vision for urban agriculture education.
  • Here in Post 3, we consider whether and where the vision would be a great reality.

Richmond council has been fortunate to receive several suitable visions for the Garden City Lands, but the one from Kent Mullinix got the best reception. It became even better when Dr. Mullinix informed Coun. Bill McNulty that the president of Kwantlen had encouraged him to bring the concept forward to the city, since it helps a lot when there’s support from the top.

At the meeting, which was in February 2008, council members expressed interest in implementing the concept on the Garden City Lands. Staff was directed to look at a 48-acre parcel of the Garden City Lands as one option. At that time, February 2008, the City was in an agreement in which 65% of the lands would go to high-density development and a convention centre, leaving only 35%, which is 48 acres. That is significant for two reasons:

  • It means that staff was asked to look into the possibility of using the entire property that the city hoped to have available at that time.
  • Even when the City was expecting to have so little land available, it was open to providing the ideal amount of land, which Dr. Mullinix had stated as 40–50 acres.

Besides being large enough, the Garden City Lands is ideal for other reasons:

  1. It is only a hundred metres from Kwantlen’s Richmond campus, which would supply parking and classroom space.
  2. The students would help the community gardeners, food bank farmers, and entry-level farmers right there on the lands, with the symbiotic relationship enabling unique practical learning opportunities for the students at the same time.
  3. It is expected to include one or more reservoir lakes. That water collected from the city centre would supply irrigation in addition to helping the drainage.
  4. It is as urban as possible, which is as fitting as possible for urban agriculture education.
  5. As a world-leading initiative, it would attract agri-tourists and become an agri-tourism hub adjoining the Golden Village and near much of the city’s hospitality industry.
  6. Besides attracting tourists, the central location surrounded by four arterial roads would give tremendous attractive visibility to learning and practising urban agriculture. That would encourage citizens throughout Richmond (and beyond) to become involved and perhaps help the community return to what it used to be, the Garden City.
  7. The whole lands could be one agricultural park (with habitat areas). It would be essentially one farm—perhaps with the city, university, and community partnering to manage it. That is in keeping with the Agricultural Land Commission’s assessment in its 2006 decision about the suitability of the lands to be a complete farming unit.

In short, Richmond council seemed to love Kent Mullinix’s concept, and the concept and the Garden City Lands seem to fit well together. (For details about council’s response, see item 3 in the minutes of council’s planning committee on February 5, 2008.)

So what’s the catch? There must be a catch somewhere. “Show me the catch!” you say. Maybe we can find one in Post 4.

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