STRATHCONA COMMUNITY GARDEN
An example of urban agriculture integrated with wildlife conservation, park creation and community development
Urban agriculture projects naturally draw participation from very diverse groups and integrate what have been seen as very diverse functions.
An example of the way land access leads to a natural integration of social work, agriculture, conservation and recreation is Strathcona Community Garden, created by a citizen group, on public land but with almost no public funding. In the last twelve years the Strathcona Community Gardeners Society has done community development, park design and construction, organic agriculture education and wildlife habitat restoration, on three and a half acres in the East End of Vancouver -- this in addition to feeding a number of households, some of which have incomes so low they would be hungry without the food they grow.
It has been the experience of the Strathcona group that access to land -- combined with reasonable freedom to initiate, design and carry out projects in ways that accord with member needs and talents -- has inspired great energy and generosity not only in the Society's membership but also in individuals, businesses and institutions it has asked for help. In addition to thousands of hours of volunteer labour, the garden has been given professional services by engineers, architects, building contractors, landscape designers, bee-keepers, naturalists, graphic designers, writers, sign-painters, translators, community organizers, photographers, fundraisers, plant scientists, heavy equipment operators, truckers, concrete finishers, surveyors and geographers.
It has invited and received involvement from all three levels of government, from vocational and community colleges, and from both local universities. It has solicited funds and goods from small and large companies (which include Finning, Lafarge, Bosa Brothers, MacMillan-Blodel, Cannell Films, and Milwaukee Power Tools) as well as from credit unions and foundations.
In return it has provided facilities to neighbourhood daycares, preschool classes and after-school programs, community service programs, youth training groups, garden clubs, university students in geography and landscape architecture, and to local, national and international media. The Garden's annual open house draws hundreds of people to demonstrations of organic and intensive gardening methods, herb growing, bee-keeping, compost-making, and apple cultivation. The completion of its new garden house this year will allow further demonstrations of canning, seed-saving, herb drying and of an urban use of solar power, composting toilet system and greywater filtration by water plants. SCG is also a park visited daily by tourists. Its one acre wild area, marsh and hedgerow perimeters support an increasing population of wildlife in the city core.