Well, our first urban farming meeting is taking place this Monday, Nov. 22.  The response has been great with 48 people confirming their attendance.  It’s actually a little more than we have room for, but its hard to complain about success!

The interest in this meeting is encouraging as an indicator for the future of urban farming and the amount of enthusiasm around it. I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about the development of an urban farming network in Vancouver.

One of the things I will be determining today is how to phrase the topics of discussion for the discussion groups.  The two basic themes are:

  1. What is Urban Farming?
  2. What would an urban farming network look like

The first questions seems simple enough, but there are some important aspects of naming this.

  • It’s important that we are all on the same page or at least have an idea of the pages that people are on.
  • The idea is not so much to strictly define urban farming but to identify characteristics of projects that we would typically call urban farming
  • Defining urban farming more specifically may not be very important to urban farmers, but it certainly is important to funders, so they know what kind of projects their funds are supporting and it would be important in determining the role and scope of an urban farming network
  • We can partially define urban farming by what it is not as well, which helps differentiate it from community gardening, hobby gardening, and other UA activities
  • The description can contain abstract, factual, physical, etc. aspects of urban farming.  I would suggest a focus on things that can be measured as these are tools to help us measure the success of urban farming initiatives
  • My current working terms are as follows:
    • Urban farming describes urban agriculture projects in which many of the following characteristics are often present
      • is income-generating
      • is often collaborative
      • often takes place at multiple sites
      • often use organic practices
      • is often documented electronically as blog or website
    • These terms can clearly help differentiate urban farming from other UA activities and also give a sense of what urban farming looks like
    • Other more abstract or subjective and bigger picture descriptions can also be included:
      • Provides meaningful work
      • Increases food security in cities
      • Helps connect people with their food

However, it seems that the bigger picture stuff might better be left for the working groups and the focus here only on defining urban farming so as to create a shared perspective on what we are trying to achieve.

The second question relates to the overall goal of this project – to develop an urban farming network in Vancouver.  The question for me is do we focus on “What would an urban farming network look like?” or, rather, on “What are the needs of urban farmers?”.  The latter question seems to be a better example of putting the horse before the cart.

So having written that, the latter  question seems better, though I do not know whether to phrase it individually or collectively.  I would want to hear both individual needs and what people see as overall needs.  One thing I have noticed is urban farmers seem to think that everything is OK in certain areas, because, well, everything happens to be OK in those areas.  But how are they adapted for a change in those areas?  You may have land, but is that land secure?  And if it is not, and you are trying to build a business our of urban farming, what will you do if you lose that land?

Another interesting topic will be that of the working groups.  Since these groups will only be effective if they are well attended, I am curious to see what efforts farmers will  make to attend.  It will be a bit of work in the groups, but I think the growth opporunities wil be very beneficial.

So generally the meeting is looking very good and I expect some great things to come out of it.  I can foresee a few challenges, but for a group of almost 50 people, this should be expected!  One of the challenges will be to simply keep guests engaged.  I am hoping to do this by breaking up introductions to allow for questions and also hoping that many people stay after 9:00 for more discussions.

Onward and Upward…