The word “orchard” generally conjures up bucolic fields, not asphalt expanses. However, there is a new trend. On Seattle’s Beacon Hill seven acres of underused land are being transformed into America’s largest urban “food forest.” Across the border, in Vancouver, B.C., the city is creating orchards as part of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan.
The 10th goal of the Action Plan is Local Food, and two of the top three priorities have to do with growing more food right in the city. This is not just talk. Vancouver created a Food Policy Council in 2004. They’ve allowed beekeeping since 2005 and backyard hens since 2007. Community gardens are spreading throughout the city.
The city already has three urban orchards in city parks (Falaise, Gaston and Slocan) and a goal of planting seven more by 2020. There are fruit and nut trees in Ross, Memorial West and New Brighton Parks as well as the Fraserview Golf Course. Mount Pleasant Park has new community gardens. So does the roof top of the West End Community Centre. Fruit trees that line the city’s streets have been mapped (see below) by the people who created the FoodTree app.
There is also the Great Northern Way Urban Orchard in False Creek, started in 2011. It is a 10,000-square-foot fruit and nut orchard on the Great Northern Way Campus. Open to visitors and volunteers, the orchard grows its organic apples, hazelnuts, strawberries, currants and more in large planter boxes.
The Copley Community Orchard near Trout Lake broke ground in 2012. The Environmental Youth Alliance and community members are working together to plan and plant. The orchard has an environmental and educational intent, as well as community garden space. Work parties are announced on the orchard’s Facebook page.
The city has a lot more ambitious plans to become a green, food-secure community. Hats off to Vancouver. They are not just talking about sustainability. They are modeling it.
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Photo credit: Cathryn Wellner