What’s left for growing food?

The haphazard “Garden City Lake” that appears in some form each winter is sometimes picturesque, and it’s a duck heaven, but it’s not the ideal harbinger for future food growing on the Garden City Lands.

Insights prompted by photo-story about the “lake”

A Friend of Garden City put that in perspective with these thoughts:

  1. It would be lovely to see a habitat for ducks and waterfowl, but if we are going to restrict agriculture to the west side of the property, how do we manage that?
  2. Many crops that could be grown on the property should be overwintering, and they’ll die out if they’re underwater for any more than half a day.
  3. I could see two large ponds being dug to drain water on the west side and keep it aside for irrigation.

Important background

The insightful comments implicitly refer to the PARC concept map shown at right and discussed in a key article on this blog, “Listening to the Lands = PARC.” The map is based on a simple concept map that Coun. Harold Steves has discussed at council meetings. The dominant feature is a rectangle of 80­–85 acres where Coun. Steves hopes the sphagnum bog will recover. It includes the entire eastern three-fifths of the lands. Keeping to the concept, the Garden City Lands Coalition drew on Michael Wolfe’s biophysical observations to configure that conservation acreage for more optimal ecological effect, but it still takes up three-fifths of the lands.

Response to the insights

  1. Since we’re talking about Agricultural Land Reserve parkland and since food security is so important in the Richmond community, it may be that Councilor Steves’ concept that’s reflected in the PARC graphic leaves too little land for food growing. It will be up to the groups and individuals who value community gardens, community farms (e.g., for the food bank), and related wellness values to address the seeming imbalance.
  2. The insights from a reader show the critical importance of expert water management for food growing, and that applies also to bog restoration. Since we’ve owned the lands for almost two years, I hope that the city has been using that time for hydrologic study of the lands in the context of the intended ALR uses for agriculture, conservation and recreation. The problem of overwintering crops being destroyed by flooding, even for less than a day, illustrates why the basic interventions need to occur early.
  3. Having two large drainage/irrigation ponds on the west side makes sense. Although there’s a row of drains (usually clogged) on the Lands a few metres from Garden City Road, agricultural visions for the lands seem typically value true sustainability, which includes irrigating with stored drainage water. Evidently there will also be a pond for storm water from the City Centre, which might supplement the irrigation water; it cannot be used for sound bog restoration, but no doubt the ducks will like it.
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3 Comments »

  1. 1
    arzeena Says:

    Jim, I’ve spoken to City staff about hydrologists working on the site and nothing has been done so far. There are no hydrologists with agricultural experience on staff so this would be an extra expense that Council would have to OK.

  2. 3
    brunov25 Says:

    I would particularly like an aquaculture use of a pond for food security: aquaculture is a particularly efficient way of producing lots of protein in a small space.

    Also, I suggest combining a pond with finger gardens. They are a permaculture technique where the water weaves in and out of the community gardens, providing a longer growing season due to slightly raised temperature … and since the Lands are telling us they want their water to collect where we were hoping to put gardens, then we must listen and let the water collect there in a way that provides a yield to humans. http://www.sharingfarm.ca/2011/11/having-a-hand-in-the-finger-gardens

    Re stormwater overflow, this can and should be integrated as long as it is filtered/cleaned at its entry point as indicated … if the GCL can provide yet another municipal service such as stormwater management, that is to be encouraged as it increases the overall value of the lands and the number of stakeholders. Providing multiple functions with the same design feature (large ponds) is a major permaculture principle.


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