Sole Food Street Farms is an amazing success story coming out of an impoverished area in downtown Vancouver, Canada. It began with a request in 2010 from City authorities to Michael Ableman, an organic farmer from Saltspring Island and a recognized leader in urban agriculture, (See Michael Ableman in Lifetime Achievement Awards) to see what could be done to grow food on vacant, discarded land in downtown Vancouver and provide employment for the people living there.
Michael and his team brought in hundreds of containers of rich, fertile soil and organic vegetable plants from his Salt Spring Island operation. They trained some local people who knew nothing about growing food to be farmers—and Sole Food Street Farms was born. The result six years later was an annual production of 25,000 lbs of artisan quality fruits and vegetables. The produce is sold in local farmers’ markets and distributed to food banks and individuals and families in need of nutritious food.
From the beginning the primary goal was to provide meaningful employment to people from the Downtown Eastside, many of whom were suffering from addiction and physical and mental health problems, and this part of the project also has been an outstanding success. Beyond its success in Vancouver, however, the project provides a model for other cities in North America and elsewhere that surely have similar problems to Vancouver, and could benefit from a similar initiative.