Neighbourhood Food Networks Feature: Little-Mountain Riley Park Food Network’s Community Garden

This month, we are excited to highlight the work of our network member, Little Mountain-Riley Park Neighbourhood Food Network in the Little Mountain-Riley Park neighbourhood.

Growing, Harvesting, Sharing and Gathering: Celebrating the First Year in the Riley Park Community Garden

Building a community space tackling food insecurity while enhancing community engagement.

I’m so happy I get to see all the amazing work being done in this garden and community, especially during this special tomato festival.”
– The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, MP Vancouver Granville

Planting the seeds for the garden started more than 3 years ago.  Following the demolishment of the Riley Park Community Centre in 2012, there was a need for an alternative community gathering place.  The Parks Board master plan for the Riley Park redevelopment included a community garden, which presented the opportunity to both strengthen connections and build new connections to the neighbourhood.  

The garden, the fieldhouse and the Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinator, are projects of Little Mountain Neighbourhood House.  Over the past few years, we hosted conversations with community members, groups and organizations and established that the garden would aim to address the issues of food security and community involvement.

The Riley Park Community Garden is envisioned to create community space and social cohesion through participation, education and events.  They promote food security by supporting neighbourhood organizations and charities with the food grown by volunteers.

The garden aims to bring community members closer through education and community events.  Beyond its immediate function as an inclusive gathering point,  the community garden’s goal is to reflect core visions to improve food security, ecological sustainability and community development.  

The community said they wanted a garden based on commons design principles guided by the eight design principles for sustainable management of Common Pool Resources, developed by Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom.  This means that produce grown is given to the food programs serving those in need in the community; to support food literacy activity; and then for community food celebrations.  

Beyond growing food, it is a place for neighbours to gather and connect.  

In 2017, activities included

  • Work Parties held weekly to build the garden, plant it open for all; corporate work party days; and student groups.
  • Community Meals included picnics, community kitchens, themed potlucks including a Syrian-meal, Heritage Potluck, a Latino fiesta, a Corn butter tasting, tomato- fest, apple fest, and three sisters lunch.
  • Community Celebrations  with different cultural or seasonal themes included the shed design charette, Hillcrest Festival, Plein Air, Four Corners Medicine Wheel, Corn Festival, Artful Reflections, Fall Equinox Wild Salmon Caravan, Shakespeare in the Garden, Connecting to Place, Mad Hatter Tea Party.
  • Garden Meetings to discuss ongoing projects with the garden and related topics
  • Education workshops taught about Indigenous Medicinal Plants, Pollinators, Compost, Fall/Winter Planting, Soil Science, Garlic Growing.

“It was inspiring to see students participating with gusto and asking really good questions. We got so much work done!”
– Lori Weidenhammer, talking about the Tupper Learning Library Day

The focus is on shared gardening with no private plots.  Preference on group gardening is to those who are food insecure or who provide food and meals for those who are food insecure.  Our membership includes a Syrian sponsored family; the Neighbourhood House Newcomers, Latinos and Summer Campers; Intergenerational with Ed Shum (our 90+ year old neighbour who started the Seniors Community Garden) with a Filipino newcomer family; UBC Rewilders; and SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation).

A partnership with the Vancouver Farmers Market was strengthened as the new Riley Park Summer Market was adjacent to the garden.  Riley Park Community Garden participates monthly in the Donation Station for the benefit of food programs serving newcomers, immigrants and refugee claimants; and farmers, including Shirlene from Earth Apple Farm and Chris from One Love Farm who shared their knowledge with the community.

Looking forward, Riley Park Community Garden needs help from community members to plan future activities and to learn how to better share what is grown with those in need in the neighbourhood.  They have an online survey and will be hosting community conversations with seniors groups to better how we enable residents to access healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food.

Riley Park Community Garden thanks New Horizons For Seniors funding, the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park Society, the Vancouver Parks Board and Neighbourhood Small Grants for their support.

Riley Park Community Garden / / facebook
50 East 30th Avenue, Vancouver