Urban agriculture education, Post 6

Starting with Carol Day, many citizens have referred to the Garden City Lands as “Richmond’s Stanley Park.” I’ll review that idea before relating it to urban agriculture education, especially the concept put forward by Dr. Kent Mullinix, in this final post in a series of six.

The Garden City Lands are city centre green space that expresses Richmond’s traditional identity, just as Stanley Park is city centre green space that expresses Vancouver’s traditional identity. The Garden City Lands agricultural and bog theme is parallel to the Stanley Park forest and harbour theme. Naturally, Stanley Park is much further along in its development, and we can learn from it.

When a windstorm leveled a forest of trees in December 2006, threatening the identity and future of Stanley Park, citizens turned the devastation into an opportunity. All levels of government, business, and organizations joined in. As the Vancouver parks board says in “Stanley Park Restoration”:

Out of the tangled chaos left in the wake of the storm, opportunities to renew, restore and improve the park were created. Important lessons on topics ranging from forestry to fundraising were learned that will have far-reaching application and value.

The storm that threatened the future of Richmond’s Garden City Lands was federal mistakes in 2004 and early 2005 that would have torn up most of the bog and thrown up towers of concrete. Here, as in Vancouver, citizens have turned devastating events into an opportunity. We too have had remarkable grassroots action, and we too have visions of renewal. So far, though, it seems that none has been sufficiently unifying and inspiring.

If one vision can be unifying for the whole community, including Richmond’s fractious council and the two senior levels of government, it is most likely the urban agriculture education vision. Dr. Kent Mullinix of Kwantlen Polytechnic University rightly calls food “the great common denominator,” and learning to produce local food together for a sustainable community could easily become a common mission. There’s strong momentum already, and we could build from that to implement the vision.

Community groups have been doing a terrific job of educating the community in local food growing, drawing out people’s potential through experiential learning. However, the Mullinix proposal could take us to another level. Furthermore, Kwantlen has already gained council support, is deeply involved in the community, and has shown collaborative leadership. Going with proven success is the simple way to more success.

Talking to Dr. Mullinix, I’m inspired by the way he sees Kwantlen horticulture faculty and students working with community gardeners and farmers on the Garden City Lands, as well as beyond the lands in Richmond. Much more is inspiring, but I won’t repeat here what’s been said in Post 2 and the rest of this series. I’ll just suggest that the effect on the community could be truly transformative.

I hope that council will finally act on its good intentions at the 2008 meeting where Kent Mullinix presented the urban agriculture education concept. There would be challenges to overcome, including the ten I listed in Post 4, but a wonderful Garden City Lands should be just as motivating for us as a wonderful Stanley Park is for our northern neighbour. Even if it turns out not to be the very best vision, investigating it will help us to finally get out of the tangled mess.

________________________________

A few notes:

  • Along with Dr. Kent Mullinix, the local Kwantlen leadership is coming from Dr. Arthur Fallick, Director, Sustainable Urban Systems, an urban geographer who brings significant experience in open learning, which is very relevant to the urban agriculture education concept.
  • One sign of Kent Mullinix’s leadership is the support he received from his students for his presentation to Richmond council. We learned about it in the follow-up presentation by Shane McMillan, speaking on behalf of the Kwantlen horticulture students.
  • Besides Shane McMillan’s presentation, Dr. Mullinix’s “Kwantlen Urban Agriculture Research and Education Centre” concept paper may be of interest if you’d like to delve further.
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