An amazing opportunity to lead the world

Update: The Richmond Review has published this as a column,Council brilliance, Kwantlen and the Garden City Lands” (August 17). This post adds hyperlinks, and one at the end will lead you to six related posts.

A promising option for Richmond’s city centre is looking better than ever. It is urban-agriculture research and education led by a local university.

When Dr. Kent Mullinix presented the concept in February 2008, Richmond council’s planning committee liked it enough to direct staff to look at 48 acres of the Garden City Lands for it. (For details, see item 3 in the minutes.)  That was the entire acreage not slated for a trade centre and other big buildings at the time.

Kent is a researcher and educator with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where he is Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. Since 2008, Kwantlen has teamed with the city and local groups in the innovatively successful Richmond Farm School. The university has a new sustainable agriculture degree program, and Kent directed its development.

At my suggestion, we met on the Garden City Lands, since I wondered if the research-and-education concept and that Agricultural Land Reserve parkland are still meant for each other. I now think there could be a solid partnership for mutual benefit.

Kent wasn’t looking for perfect soil. For the “land laboratory” the program needs, the fields might include the raised clay fill in the northwest corner. From there, they might extend east along Alderbridge Way to peatland and/or south in the disturbed area along Garden City Road. “We have to learn to make the most of what we’ve got in British Columbia,” he said.

Much of the parkland is likely to go to ecological habitat, trails, playgrounds, etc., within the single ALR unit, but any part of it can become suitable for urban agriculture education and for community gardens and farms. For the Kwantlen program, a small barn would serve as the research centre, and classes would be at the nearby campus on Lansdowne Road.

Since the Garden City Lands will be a popular park destination, I suggested interpretive signs about the research and education along trails between the fields. “A valuable element,” said Kent. In his view of agriculture, “You can’t ask people to appreciate who and what you are if you shun them. Invite them in! You’ve got to be part of their lives.”

Similarly, he said, “Doing world-class research and education here doesn’t mean we can’t work with community groups and community gardeners. In fact, the curriculum will necessitate the students doing that.”

Kent mentioned that farms that function well also look well maintained. No doubt the faculty, along with the city’s excellent parks staff, would ensure that the Garden City Lands are kept up in a first-rate way.

All of this costs money, and Kent foresaw the university and city pursuing a joint strategy together to bring in federal and provincial funding.

Kent said, “Jim, in the next three years we’re likely hiring several agriculture faculty focused on urban and near-urban agriculture, teaching soils and pest management and cropping systems. . . .” With Kwantlen, the time to partner in that sort of thing is now.

Any concept has flaws. Personally, though, I think Richmond council members were brilliant to encourage the urban agriculture education concept. Way back in February 2008, they somehow looked ahead to when it would be feasible in the city centre on the Garden City Lands.

This post builds on a six-post series. There is so much on the topic because Kent Mullinix has put so much thought into education about sustainable agriculture, which essentially means urban and near-urban agriculture. Click on this Mullinix vision link for an overview of the series.

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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Al Says:

    2008:

    That was then…(before we purchased the GCL ) this is now.

    Citizens of Richmond are gonna be set up for major disappointment.
    Council paid approx. $60 millon of the the GCL, approx. $ 400,000 per acre.

    It is not going to provide approx. 50 acres to another body.like Kwantlen .ie $20 Milion worth of taxpayers investment, as that would also conflict with Councils public views the GCL was not viable.

    Perhaps parties should inquire of City Hall (as I have) re the $60 million “aquatic center” that is tabled in the budget and WHERE is it going to go ..hint hint?

    I say the table is set that BC Gov’t will override the ALC and exclude the GCL from the ALR


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