Sole Food Farms - Vancouver

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Cited by Sharon Ede:

"Vancouver’s Sole Food Street Farms, the largest urban farm project in North America, employs marginalised people to grow quality food at commercial scale. During the past seven years, Sole Food Street Farms has transformed acres of vacant and contaminated urban land into street farms that grow artisan-quality fruits and vegetables. By providing jobs, agricultural training, and inclusion in a community of farmers and food lovers, the Sole Food project has empowered dozens of individuals with limited resources who are managing addiction and chronic mental health problems.

…a study conducted at Queen’s University that concluded for every dollar Sole Food paid to its employees, $1.70 was saved to the health care system, the legal system, the social assistance system, the prison system, and the environment. Meanwhile, Sole Food also contributes to the local economy.

Yet…with the high property values in Vancouver, capitalism causes economic competition that Sole Foods can’t always overcome.

For example, when WestPark (a parking management company) began managing a lot Sole Food had leased, the farm lost some of its land to make way for parking spaces. Another one of Sole Food’s farms is being repossessed this year, and the organization must move by autumn. Sole Food’s business model, putting profit secondary to their focus of employing people in need, makes them less competitive in Vancouver’s cutthroat real estate market. As Ableman says, “we are merely temporary placeholders for developers until they’re ready to make the big bucks.” (


Sharon Ede:

"Despite all the value it delivers, including savings to the public purse, Sole Food remains precarious because it doesn’t own the land.

The bigger question is: why on earth would a city want to lose an asset invested in by its people, which addresses multiple policy objectives simultaneously, especially when it can save public money?

There’s no reason a municipal or state government cannot enter into a ‘partner state’ arrangement with initiatives proposed by citizens, an approach which has been formalised in Bologna, Italy and other places with regulation.

Or a public authority can act directly, as the orchestrator and curator for activities that would struggle to be viable without such support." (