Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia—one of the worst urban slums in North America—who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood. It is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing others as a way to heal our world and ourselves.
Michael Ableman is a farmer, author, photographer and urban and local food systems advocate. Michael has been farming organically since the early 1970′s and is considered one of the pioneers of the organic farming and urban agriculture movements. He is a frequent lecturer to audiences all over the world, and the winner of numerous awards for his work. Ableman is the author of four trade published books: From the Good Earth: A celebration of growing food around the world; On Good Land: The autobiography of an urban farm; Fields of Plenty: A farmer’s journey in search of real food and the people who grow it, and most recently Street Farm; Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier. Michael Ableman is the founder of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens in Goleta, California where he farmed for 20 years; co-founder and director of Sole Food Street Farms and the charity Cultivate Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia; and founder and director of the Center for Arts, Ecology and Agriculture based at his family home and farm on Salt Spring Island.
During the past seven years, Sole Food Street Farms—now North America’s largest urban farm project—has transformed acres of vacant and contaminated urban land into street farms that grow artisan-quality fruits and vegetables. By providing jobs, agricultural training, and inclusion in a community of farmers and food lovers, the Sole Food project has empowered dozens of individuals with limited resources who are managing addiction and chronic mental health problems.
Sole Food’s mission is to encourage small farms in every urban neighborhood so that good food can be accessible to all, and to do so in a manner that allows everyone to participate in the process. In Street Farm, author-photographer-farmer Michael Ableman chronicles the challenges, growth, and success of this groundbreaking project and presents compelling portraits of the neighborhood residents-turned-farmers whose lives have been touched by it. Throughout, he also weaves his philosophy and insights about food and farming, as well as the fundamentals that are the underpinnings of success for both rural farms and urban farms. Street Farm will inspire individuals and communities everywhere by providing a clear vision for combining innovative farming methods with concrete social goals, all of which aim to create healthier and more resilient communities.
Street Farm Facts
Sole Food Street Farms consists of five separate sites in Vancouver, including the largest urban orchard in North America. All sites are paved land and crops are grown in soil flled growing boxes. The overall yield of this growing system is 15 to 25 times higher than conventional “open field” growing systems.
• 4.5 total acres of paved urban land
• 75 people employed from 2009 to present
• 8,000 containers used to grow fruits and vegetables
• 50,000 pounds of food produced annually
• $1.7M+ total sales revenue (2009-2016)
• $300,000 in annual wages paid to employees
• $20,000 estimated annual loss of Sole Food crops due to rodent damage (rats like vegetables, too)
• $2.20 estimated savings to the health care, legal, and social assistance systems for every dollar paid to Sole Food employees (Queens University study, 2013)
• $150,000+ raised annually to support the Sole Food program
• $46M per day of taxpayer money spent to subsidize large-scale industrial farming
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