Farm Fest rejoices in Garden City Lands crops

Farm Fest on Saturday, August 11, 2018, was a great day for the Garden City Lands. All around, people were obviously having a wonderful time, and the exhibitors like Richmond FarmWatch and the Garden City Conservation Society were delighted with all the interaction. Citizens were learning while being entertained, and the exhibitors and other very informed participants were interacting with each other when they found time to tour.

The Sustainable Agriculture staff and students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) were finally able to show crops on the lands, after working toward it since February 2008, over a decade.

For those who were used to touring what’s now the Kwantlen research and teaching farm—but when it was open field—it was surprising to be standing well out on the Lands and feeling on the same level as Garden City Road. That was when looking west, as shown in the photo, toward the large condo buildings across that road. It is all possible because Kwantlen and the City of Richmond were able to bring in a very thick layer of soil from Sea Island, where it had been excavated for airport runway construction.

Kwantlen’s Dr. Mike Bomford explained that the effect of the Garden City Lands being the Dominion Rifle Range for a long period had been underestimated. The remnants of used ammunition had contaminated the soil. By bringing in the YVR soil, the City and KPU actually now have very suitable soil for organic farming. Quite a difference!

As well, that upper layer will enhance the sequestering of the vast amount of methane that nature has stored in the peat below. The area is, after all, on the edge of part of the Lulu Island Bog. Sphagnum bogs are especially good for capturing and storing methane, reducing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

An important bonus is that the higher elevation of the cultivated layer will be helpful for drainage, with the lower level, including a lot of peat, still retaining water.

From the beginning of the efforts to save the Garden City Lands from dense development, the Save Garden City movement stressed the importance of having a university partner to take the lead in farming, including research, education and community outreach. KPU stepped up to seek that role, and the community is very fortunate they kept the vision. The world is too, because the KPU project is already attracting wide interest, and it will be on the leading edge in a range of ways.

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Note: The Kwantlen research and teaching farm has essentially been envisioned as an important element for the Garden City Lands since the Sustainable Food Systems Park concept was first presented to Richmond council in early 2007 by the Richmond Poverty Response Committee task force that is now the Richmond Food Security Society. The educational element is listed on page 4 of the report.

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