Urban agriculture education, Post 4

Put aside those rose-coloured glasses. There’s little use for them here in Post 4 of this series about urban agriculture education:

  • It’s great but not enough that the Garden City Lands are an ideal location for world-leader urban agriculture education.
  • It’s promising but not enough that there has been significant interest from Richmond city council.
  • It’s encouraging but not enough that the most enthusiastic university has a campus almost next door and has demonstrated its commitment to urban agriculture in the community.

It’s a complex task to go from a state of promising potential to a full urban agriculture program flourishing on the Garden City Lands. I’m just going to brainstorm a few of the challenges:

  1. Richmond council would have to be thoroughly assured of a range of benefits for the community that would merit the business arrangement of making 35 percent (48 acres) of the lands available to the university in a long-term agreement.
  2. The community would want to ensure that potential benefits that would enhance citizens’ quality of life would actually occur:
    – How much student help would be available for farmers and gardeners on and beyond the lands?
    – Would faculty and students work with Ian Lai of the Terra Nova Schoolyard Project to develop a similar but much larger program?
    – Would the program be a model of self-sustainability in such matters as footprint (minimal permanent foundations?), heating sources (thermal?), and irrigation system (reservoir lakes)?
    – To what extent would the faculty and students be involved in the agri-tourism industry on the lands?
    – Would the students help develop community awareness about urban agriculture, e.g., its potential and respect for ownership of crops within reach of covetous hands?
  3. Other elements in the community would want to ensure that the program would respect and enhance the ecology of the lands and their environmental value as a peatland carbon sink.
  4. MP-arranged assistance from the federal government, which is significantly involved in leading-edge agriculture and agri-foods, could easily be hindered if council members who have created obstacles continue to do so.
  5. MLA-arranged assistance from the provincial government, which is responsible for education, will be challenged by the province’s post-recession financial difficulties, although it should be able to find a way to fund the program.
  6. The Richmond council dysfunction that Musqueam Chief Ernest Campbell wrote about recently could make effective action by the city much more difficult.
  7. Other educational institutions such as UBC and SFU might need to be given an opportunity to make proposals, even though Kwantlen’s initiative would count for a lot.
  8. The suitable areas for urban agriculture education would need to be worked out in a vision for the whole lands, taking into account the very different qualities of raised clay-soil fill areas, deep bog areas, etc.
  9. Since some areas would most likely be conserved for habitat, with indigenous species encouraged, it would need to be determined whether the management of such areas would be worked into the urban agriculture program or managed separately.
  10. There would need to be a partnership system enabling the whole Garden City Lands to function as much like one large farm as possible.

No doubt you readers can come up with a longer and better list.

Pretty much everything worthwhile is challenging. Naturally, motivation to overcome the challenges is dependent on envisioning the attractiveness of the goals. In Post 5, we’ll review the benefits of the goal of flourishing urban agriculture. In Post 6, the last in the series, I’ll offer you a new view of the big picture.


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