COMMUNITY GARDENING AND URBAN FARMING

  • URBAN FARMING POH-POHS: CHINESE SENIORS GARDEN PROJECT DEVELOPS SPACE FOR ELDERS’ FOOD SECURITY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Dignified Food Access, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Food Justice, Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood House // April 12, 2019

    Last spring and summer, a group of poh-pohs (Cantonese for “grandmothers “or “elderly women”) gathered every Saturday to grow fresh vegetables in raised beds and pots on the edge of the parking lot at East Hastings Street and Jackson Avenue. Led by local organizer Doris Chow with support from the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House and Carnegie Community Centre, this Chinese Seniors Community Garden became a new space for seniors to share skills and stay healthy.

    Group photo of the gardening poh-pohs. Photo by Clare Yow.

    In Fall 2018, the Sun Wah Centre on Keefer Street hosted CHINATOWN GENERATIONS as part of the Heart of the City Festival. This intergenerational community event celebrated Chinatown and its ongoing presence of cultural heritage. It featured a photo exhibition by and of urban farming poh-pohs and their gardening activities in the Downtown Eastside.

    During this event, an attentive audience listened to these seniors share stories from their experiences in this project with the support of English translators. Unlike many other community garden spaces, these elderly Chinese women tended to the garden beds in a communal fashion and shared the harvest. In addition to obtaining produce and new garden skills, they cultivated stronger friendships and community with one another.

    Seniors’ photography shares personal memories

    Upon my arrival to the event, one of the senior participants, Kong Tai (Mrs. Kong) came over to say hello and handed me a small photo album. Mrs. Kong is a well-known elder in the Chinatown community who advocates on issues of housing justice. Despite the language barrier between us, the photos she offered me conveyed her excitement and happiness for the garden project.

    Photos taken by the seniors exhibited at the Sun Wah building for the Heart of the City Festival. Photo by Clare Yow.

    As I flipped through the photo album, the 4×6 prints displayed the unmistakable film aesthetic of a disposable camera. I realized these photos were taken by the poh pohs themselves. The photos captured many bright faces, green growth, and blurred smiles: Mrs. Kong and her friends working in the garden, a group of elderly women displaying large bunches of Asian greens, a harvest of juicy mo gwa (fuzzy melons). These photos captured the seniors’ experiences through their own lens. 

    CHINATOWN GENERATIONS exhibit featured photography by the poh pohs. Photo by Clare Yow

    “No one needs expensive coffee or skateboards, but we need groceries”

    While the Chinese Seniors Community Garden project is joyful, it is also critically important. With increasing gentrification in Chinatown, 55% of grocery stores have closed down or moved out of the neighbourhood within the past decade (according to a report by hua foundation).

    As Mrs. Kong expresses: 

    We had all the grocery stores and herbal stores, cafes, a variety of restaurants to eat dim sum or dinner, which are important social spaces for us Chinese people… [but] there are not even a lot of grocery shops left. 

    A big problem is that the new places opening in Chinatown are either a coffee shop or a nightclub. These places are really expensive and they don’t sell things that we need, nor are they welcoming spaces for us. They are unsuitable to our needs. I never go into these places and I drink my coffee at the Carnegie. No one needs expensive coffee or skateboards, but we need groceries.

    Mrs. Kong 鄺太, Carnegie Community Action Project Report: “We Are Too Poor To Afford Anything
    Guests view the exhibit at Sun Wah. Photo by Clare Yow.

    Seniors often overlooked in Western society

    Beyond the needs of the Chinatown neighbourhood, increasing numbers of seniors are unable to afford to feed themselves. In December, CBC reported that approximately 10,000 seniors—a figure on the rise—access the food bank each month in B.C. As life expectancy increases, food insecurity for seniors is expected to worsen, too. For seniors who live in poverty, B.C.’s disability and welfare rates do not support them to afford healthy foods. Nearly a third of seniors are deemed “at risk” of not getting adequate nutrition from their diets according to Statistics Canada. 

    Poh pohs explain the Chinese Seniors Community Garden to an audience at the Heart of the City Festival. Photo by Clare Yow

    At the intersection of age, class, gender, and race, many elderly Chinese women experience discrimination while navigating social services. For years, service providers in the Downtown Eastside have recognized the need for more culturally-specific services for Chinese seniors.

    “The [seniors] that are healthiest come [to resource centres in the Downtown Eastside] in the biggest groups. They don’t have any education. They can’t read. They can’t write. But the way they’re happy, the way they survive, and part of why they’re healthy, is because they have each other.”

    Deanna Wong, Chinese seniors outreach coordinator in “Old, Alone and Victims of Racism in Downtown Eastside,” The Tyee

    The success of the Chinese Seniors Community Garden is even more meaningful with an understanding of how immigrant seniors’ needs are not adequately met by Western society. The role of friendship and community in this neighbourhood are necessary for survival. Growing gardens may be the vehicle, but this multi-lingual, culturally-focussed project will have lasting impacts through its built relationships.

    A future with food for all, seniors included

    As the gardening season begins again, more local food security projects are continuing to center the needs of seniors in other parts of the city.

    In the coming months, Little Mountain Neighbourhood House will launch “Sowing the Seeds of Inclusivity,” a gardening project at Riley Park Community Garden to specifically support food security for seniors in Little Mountain-Riley Park neighbourhood. In addition to gardening and cooking activities, the project will provide lunches in the garden and shuttle rides to and from the sessions, as a means of increasing accessibility.

    For those who are looking to get involved or are passionate about seniors’ food security, Riley Park Community Garden is currently looking for new members to join their Seniors Engagement Committee for their “Sowing the Seeds of Inclusivity” project.

    The Chinese Seniors Community Garden is also welcoming new volunteers and gardeners, with no prior experience needed. They will host a public re-opening celebration on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 10AM. The group will celebrate the new growing season with snacks and an official lion dance opening.

    The Chinese Seniors Garden will re-open on Saturday, April 20, 2019 with a community celebration. Everyone is welcome to attend.

    As the food movement shifts to prioritize more and more underrepresented voices, like those of our elders, I hope we will continue to listen to elders’ stories and learn from the wisdom they have to offer. I hope projects like the Chinese seniors garden plant the seed for more of Vancouver’s food communities to address seniors’ specific needs to access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods with dignity and respect.


    Congratulations to all the poh-poh participants and project facilitators Doris Chow and Simin Sun. This project has been supported by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Carnegie Community Centre, New Horizons for Seniors, and Wing Wing Sausage Co. Limited. Thank you to Clare Yow for permission to use your photos. 

  • SPRING GARDENING WORKSHOPS & EVENTS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Community Gardening and Urban Farming, Events, Gordon Neighbourhood House, Grandview Woodland Food Connection, Hastings Sunrise Community Food Network, Little Mountain Riley Park Neighbourhood House, Marpole Oakridge Neighbourhood Food Network, Neighbourhood Food Networks, Renfew Collingwood Food Security Institute, Seed Library, Uncategorized, Village Vancouver, West End Neighbourhood Food Network // March 12, 2019

    The ground is thawing and soon it’ll be time to start working the soil again.

    Whether you’re a long-time gardener or brand new to growing your own food, the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks have got you covered this spring. Join an upcoming workshop to learn skills on early spring planting, growing Japanese vegetables, making the most of patios or small garden spaces, how to manage pests, and more.

    There are also opportunities across the city to learn new skills, meet other gardeners, and volunteer in your community.

    Read on to learn more.


    March 16, 2019 // Garden Work Party & Early Spring Planting workshop
    50 East 30th Avenue from 12:00-2:00 PM
    Riley Park Community Garden

    Join Riley Park gardeners to prepare the orchard area and for an Early Spring Planting workshop led by Chris Billion of One Love Farm (starts at 1pm). Gardeners will be planting the bed for the new residents of the Modular Housing unit at 37th/ Main. This will be the first of three seed planting workshops this year with Chris to demonstrate year-round tips to grow vegetables.

    For more info contact info@rileyparkgarden.org.


    Mar 17, 2019 // Community Potluck, Seed Library & Workshop – West End
    870 Denman Street from 1:00-2:30PM
    West End Community Centre, Barclay Room

    Join West End Neighbourhood Food Network and Village Vancouver at their monthly family friendly gatherings. Bring something yummy, share some good food and conversation with neighbours. Each month they present a mini-workshop on a different food and/or gardening related topic. The topic for March is amendments and fertilizers for patio and balcony gardeners.

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8333, reference activity #199941


    March 17, 2019 // West End Urban Garden Club meeting
    870 Denman Street from 2:30-3:30PM
    West End Community Centre, Barclay Room

    The featured activity at this March meeting will be making seed packets. Organized by West End Neighbourhood Food Network, a group which shares information, organizes food and gardening workshops, saves and distributes seed, explores possibilities for creating more gardening spaces in the West End, and engages in other food and gardening related activities.

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8333, reference activity #199951


    March 19, 2019 // Community Gardens Networking and Meetup
    3981 Main Street, Vancouver from 6:30-8:30 PM
    Little Mountain Neighbourhood House

    Community garden organizers and members from across Vancouver are invited to get together, share experiences and learn from one other. Join Riley Park Community Garden and Vancouver Parks Board (VPB) to share successes on how to engage community, what is working in your garden, common challenges, and how to work together.

    Reserve your spot here. For more info, contact Joanne at joanne_mackinnon@lmnhs.bc.ca.


    March 21, 2019 // Seed Swap – Collingwood
    5288 Joyce Street from 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
    Collingwood Neighbourhood House

    Join us for our first seed swap of the year to trade or purchase new seeds and get your garden ready for the spring season! We will accept cash or swaps of seeds from your own garden in exchange for seeds from our collection. Find Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute in the main entrance lobby of Collingwood Neighbourhood House.


    March 21, 2019 // Garden Volunteer Meeting – West End
    1019 Broughton Street at 6:00 PM
    Gordon Neighbourhood House

    The sun’s out and temperatures are warming up, which means the growing season is just around the corner! Interested in getting involved in the gardens at Gordon Neighbourhood House this spring and summer? Come learn about our garden programs at this garden volunteer meeting.

    For more information, email joey@gordonhouse.org


    March 21, 2019 // Start Your Own Seedlings Workshop
    5288 Joyce Street from 6:00-8:00PM
    Collingwood Neighbourhood House

    Save money, and grow a wider variety of garden veggies by starting your own seedlings! This workshop will go over everything you need to know to start your own vegetable seedlings: From what soil to use, to moisture and light requirements, to troubleshooting, and building your own DIY seedling setup.

    Workshop is by Donation $5-$20 – no one turned away for lack of funds. RSVP to foodsecurity@cnh.bc.ca OR 604-435-0323 x. 237


    March 23, 2019 // Seed Library Pop-up – Grandview-Woodland
    1661 Napier Street from 2:00-4:00PM
    Britannia Branch, Vancouver Public Library

    Get your garden going with seeds for vegetables, herbs, and more. Browse the Grandview Woodland Community Seed Library collection, borrow seeds, and check out the library’s resources on seed saving and gardening. Explore their seasonal goodies and discover new seed varieties! Pick up kale, tomato, and other seeds to start this month and next.

    Seed quantities limited; please RSVP to gwcseedlibrary@gmail.com


    March 23, 2019 // Introduction to Organic Gardening workshop
    2929 E. 22nd Ave from 10:00AM-12:00PM
    Renfrew Park Community Centre

    Village Vancouver presents this workshop covering the basics of planning, preparing and starting a food garden. You’ll learn some simple techniques from Rhiannon Johnson for starting plants indoors and in the garden. Be rewarded with the taste of freshly grown veggies this season!

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8388, reference activity #196424


    March 24, 2019 // Introduction to Early Spring Japanese Vegetables workshop
    2690 Larch Street from 1:00-3:00PM
    Kitsilano Community Centre

    Start the gardening season by growing these early spring Japanese vegetables. Easy to grow, nutritionally dense, yet not readily available, make the most of your garden by growing these wonderful veggies. This hands-on Westside Neighbourhood Food Network workshop led by Tonari Gumi Garden Club will focus on five early spring vegetables. Participants will be offered additional seeds and plant starts, along with a sampling of these vegetables in delicious, yet simple Japanese dishes.

    Register online or by calling 604-257-6980, reference activity #200630


    March 26, 2019 // Pests! Who’s Eating My Lettuce & What To Do About It
    870 Denman Street from 6:30-8:30PM
    West End Community Centre, Bidwell Room

    As anyone who’s ever gardened before knows, pests can sometimes be a real problem in the garden (and can be particularly discourging if you’re a new gardener). This Village Vancouver/West End Neighbourhood Food Network Urban Garden Club workshop will be led by Karen Ageson from Farmers on 57th. Participants will learn various ecologically sound techniques for minimizing damage and disappointment caused by pests in your garden.

    Cost is $13. Register online or by calling 604-257-8333, reference activity #199953


    March 27, 2019 // Gardening and Pizza Lunch
    3096 E. Hastings from 1:00-2:00PM
    Hastings Community Centre

    Come together with Hastings-Sunrise gardeners Lauren and Shayna to work in the veggie garden and make pizza with the harvested ingredients. Enjoy healthy snacks created from the abundance of our community garden while chatting about healthy cooking, eating, and gardening.

    Register online or by calling (604) 718-6222, reference activity #204668.


    March 28, 2019 // Growing Plenty of Potatoes
    6810 Main St from 6:30-8:30PM
    Sunset Community Centre

    Learn how and when to plant, grow, harvest, and store potatoes in this Village Vancouver workshop with Rhiannon Johnson. We’ll discuss the best varieties for our area, preparation for planting, feeding, preventing problems, and much more for growing tasty potatoes! Each participant will take potato ‘seed’ home with them.

    Register online or by calling 604-718-6505, reference activity #202822


    March 30, 2019 // Introduction to Organic Gardening workshop
    1318 Cartwright Street from 10:00AM-12:00PM
    False Creek Community Centre

    Village Vancouver presents this workshop covering the basics of planning, preparing and starting a food garden. You’ll learn some simple techniques from Rhiannon Johnson for starting plants indoors and in the garden. Be rewarded with the taste of freshly grown veggies this season!

    Register online or by calling 604-257-8195, reference activity #192441


    April 4 to September 5, 2019 // Gardening Course: Grow Your Own Food
    700 West 57th Ave from 6:30-8:00pm, every 2nd Thursday
    The Farmers on 57th at George Pearson Centre

    Come experience the joy of growing your favourite vegetables under the guidance of professional gardeners and educators, Karen Ageson and Jess Henry. The learning will be hands-on: you will plan, plant and tend your own garden plot, with instruction and support throughout the growing season. Along the way, you’ll learn about garden planning, soil health, seed starting, transplanting, weeding, watering and organic pest control.

    $300 for 12 instructional sessions, supplies and use of a garden plot approx. 4’ x 8.′ We encourage you to garden with your family—registration cost is per plot, not per person. All supplies are included (except gardening gloves) and the food you grow is yours to enjoy.

    Register online to reserve your spot in the course. If you have any questions or concerns, contact karen@farmerson57th.ca or 778-997-3609.


    April 6, 2019 // West End Food Series: Growing Japanese Vegetables Workshop
    1019 Broughton Street from 1:00-3:00pm
    Gordon Neighbourhood House

    Come learn how to grow and cook delicious Japanese vegetables. In this hands-on workshop, Makiko from Tonari Gumi will show us how to grow and cook simple recipes featuring five popular Japanese vegetables and herbs.

    Free to attend. Register online. For more info, contact foodseries@gordonhouse.org or call 604-683-2554.


    April 16, 2019 // Veggie Gardening for Beginners Workshop
    5288 Joyce Street from 6:00-8:00pm
    Collingwood Neighbourhood House

    Always wanted to learn how to grow your food but don’t know where to start? Have you tried but been met with frustration? This beginners-level gardening workshop will go over all the basics you need to know to start growing your own vegetables: Soil health basics, planting (from seed and transplanting), watering, fertility, harvesting, plant health, and troubleshooting. Learn about the most common vegetable plant families and what they need to thrive!

    Free or by donation. RSVP to foodsecurity@cnh.bc.ca to reserve your spot. For more information, call 604 435 0323.


    April 27, 2019 // Seed Library Pop Up
    1661 Napier Street from 2:00-4:00pm
    Britannia Branch, Vancouver Public Library

    Get your garden going with seeds to grow vegetables, herbs, and more with a collection of seasonal goodies and new varieties! At this Grandview Woodland Community Seed Library event, sign up as a seed library member, browse the collection, and borrow seeds. Pick up bean, cucumber, and other seeds to start this and next month.

    Seed quantities limited; please RSVP to gwcseedlibrary@gmail.com or through the Facebook event.


    May 9, 2019 // Indigenous Plant Walk on Wild & Native Medicinals
    1661 Napier Street from 6:30-8:30pm
    Britannia Community Centre, meet in the school garden at the far west end of the parking lot and skateboard courts.

    Lori Snyder is an Indigenous Herbalist, educator, storyteller, artist and Mother. Lori hosts workshops teaching about our living world, how to access its wisdom and to remember our stewardship. Come out and discover how to identify, when best to harvest & sample products in this interactive workshop. Meet in the Britannia school garden, far west end of the parking lot and skateboard courts.

    Cost is $25. Register by calling 604-718-5800.


    May 22, 2019 // Apothecary Garden Plants for Your Well-being workshop
    1661 Napier Street from 6:00-9:00pm
    Britannia Community Centre, Youth room

    Explore the exciting world of the Apothecary Garden and learn about the many herbs and their power to cure, legends and fairy tales to discover; the science of remedies preparation, and administration routes. Participants will have an opportunity to taste herbal teas and make a take-home remedy with medicinal and cosmetic properties to heal minor skin wounds, cuts and burns, sunburn, red and inflamed skin, and dry winter skin!

    Cost is $20. Register online or by calling 604-718-5800.


    June 6, 2019 // Building Healthy Soil workshop
    870 Denman Street from 6:30-8:30pm
    West End Community Centre

    Learn some rudimentary soil biology and the importance of feeding your soil in building a healthy garden with Karen Ageson from Farmers on 57th. You’ll walk away with some basic techniques, and the know how to help your garden thrive.

    $13. Register online or by calling (604) 257-8333, reference activity #213177.