It’s that time of the year again, when your stress levels go up and sleep levels go down. Why? Because we have final exams to study for and Christmas presents to buy…but it is also the time to sit down, look back, and reflect on our achievements so far in this school year. From meeting for the first time, brainstorming for ideas, planning a project and then changing our path completely, we have experienced ups and downs together in this journey as a group. We cannot be prouder of what we have achieved together. We have learned a lot from our experience, and can’t wait to share our knowledge with others!


Executive Summary

Community garden participation is greatly encouraged for its potential to address community food insecurity. As a multicultural city, it is observed that the language barriers in Vancouver may jeopardize the participation of multilingual residents in community gardens (CGs). Our CBEL project aims to study the accessibility of CGs to multilingual residents by examining CG demographics and its languages of written resources.

Seventy-four Vancouver CGs were contacted with a short questionnaire via e-mail and phone regarding application process and availability of multilingual garden resources. A low initial response rate shifted our study towards a grounded theory approach, which included interviewing several gardeners and stakeholders to execute case studies. Personal and identifying information of responders were undisclosed for ethical purposes.

Initially, we received 16 out of 74 responses, three of which were automatic replies regarding full waitlists. Four gardens had English-only application materials, and the remaining gardens processed with informal application, such as personal conversation with the prospect gardener or an e-mail request for a plot. We discovered Mandarin instructions for creating CGs on the City of Vancouver (CV) website, which implied multilingual needs. From interviews with two coordinators of the same garden, we received mixed perceptions of the importance of multilingualism within community gardens. An interview with an ESL gardener revealed language barriers and difficulty completing applications. Other CGs interviewed showed appreciation of the concept of multilingual resources, but none had plans to concretize it.

Accessibility is limited for non-English speakers due to the lack of multilingual resources, informal application processes, and long waitlists. Off-season and out-dated information on CV site may have impacted our response rates and results. Vancouver Food Strategy (VFS) strives to empower isolated groups to participate in CGs, as these residents tend to be more susceptible to food insecurity. Many immigrants or Aboriginal residents who have gardening expertise can stimulate cross-cultural interactions by CG participation, leading to improved social capital. Therefore, cultural diversity within CGs is a critical asset in Vancouver.

We suggest updating the CG contact information by CV and increasing funding to prioritize CG multilingualism. CG coordinators should adopt systematic application processes with printed resources. A CG Action Plan much like VFS on urban farming could be implemented to articulate commitments, priorities, and solutions.


What, So What, Now What?

One of the most significant learning experiences of our project this semester was during the process of putting together our presentation. As we outlined our findings and discussed the significance of our project, we were able to reflect on the context of our research. We made connections between the stories heard from community stakeholders to the concepts of community food security that we’ve learned about in LFS 350 and 250.

One of the things we discussed was that the most common response we received from community partners was that they wished for more multilingual resources but didn’t have the resources or time to be translating material. As a multilingual and multicultural group of students living in Vancouver, we experience and embody the diversity of our city, but we also acknowledge the pervasive sentiment that ‘English is good enough’. If most people can communicate in English, then why bother going to the trouble of translating resources? What we learned in this project is that even if everyone appears to be communicating in English fine, it may be because those that aren’t fluent cannot access that community. The story of a gardener who was isolated due to language barriers, but clearly an asset to her community garden, made us realize how important it is to encourage and include those who cannot communicate in English. This woman faces more barriers to participation (from poor language skills potentially leading to feelings of exclusion) than the average English-speaking gardener. It is therefore essential that institutions and communities (like gardens) translate materials in order to reduce these extra barriers that fluent English speakers wouldn’t face, even if it doesn’t seem necessary at the time or for the current community. By not having translated materials, valuable contributions from marginalized community members may be missed.

Choosing to translate materials so that all residents can have access to community gardens is important because it contributes to community food security. Community food security is often an intangible and seemingly unachievable ideal, but it’s clear that if non-English speaking residents are excluded from networks like community gardens or urban farms, than that ideal will be even further out of grasp. This is especially important to ensure that community food security doesn’t just exist for a certain demographic, that it isn’t just affluent English speaking Vancouver residents that are able to use community gardens. We hope that through translating application to community gardens there would be more diversity in membership, and therefore more perspectives on the communities’ food security conversations.

This is important for our group moving forward as we (hopefully!) become professionals working in the food system who can impact a community’s food security. With an awareness and attention to residents whose voices aren’t being heard, we hope to be intentionally inclusive, even if it there doesn’t appear to be a need. It is hard to remember and include the opinions of those that are not there, so we will go into future projects and experiences keeping in mind that language barriers may be preventing residents from participating. Dialoguing and taking action for community food security is already a complex task, but even more so if members of the community are not able to join in on the conversation.


Until next time!

Another late shift in our project

A lack of responses from community garden coordinators has resulted in yet another shift in our project…


This week, each of our group members were able to send out e-mails and contact assigned garden coordinators in a timely fashion. We were able to get a few responses from garden coordinators regarding their application process, and a couple copies of application forms as well. While we consider this a small success, the number and rate of responses were low and underwhelming. Fortunately, we were able to connect with a garden coordinator of Nelson Park Community Gardens who sits on the Board, and also works for Statistics Canada. One of our group members, Victoria, met Francine by chance through her retail garden job. From the brief exchange, Francine expressed an interest in our project and a willingness to speak to the board of the community garden about their participation in our project. Ana then emailed Nelson Park Community Garden and got a very positive response in which they recognized their lack of resources in other languages and attached a copy of their contract. Here is part of it:

“Hello, Ana.  I represent the Nelson Park Community Garden, located close behind St. Paul”s Hospital. And we do not have any of our materials in any language except English.  You have given us something to think about.  I do know we have gardeners who do speak other languages – and do grow plants from home cultures.”

This gave us the idea of a case study with this community garden, as they responded so positively and were so eager to help.


After experiencing such a low response rate from community garden coordinators, the possibility of a quantitative research project with valid data seemed to appear more grim. We decided to shift our research towards a more qualitative approach, that will analyze interviews and case studies rather than numbers for data. As a group, we must assign new roles to each member to help propel our project into a positive direction, especially after establishing yet another change so late into the term. This week, we will work on setting up interviews with select garden coordinators, and discuss possible gardens to conduct a case study.


Describe and reflect on your group’s Moment of Significant Change workshop from session 8 (include an image of the graph your group).

  1. Our group spirit was really high in the beginning of the project. When we were brainstorming for ideas, we realized that we shared common interests in many areas, especially in educating the public about healthy diet. Therefore, when we came up with the idea of designing a school gardening program with a cookbook, everyone was excited and ready to make a difference. (What?)
  2. When we realized how unfeasible our initial plan was in a small time frame, we were frustrated. This is when our motivation dropped on the graph.
  3. Inspired by the ABCD framework, we came to a consensus of building our project on the resources we already had.  We decided to do an assessment on the existing community gardens. Our interest was regenerated during this scope change. The project was defined. We were able to narrow down our study subject to multilingual groups and aim to analyze their language barriers to the community garden.
  4. However, our spirit did not remain at the peak for long. The low mark we received on the proposal report was a moment of significant change. We reviewed our approaches to the assignment and identified the possible reason, such as failed to follow the rubrics for our low performance.
  5. Bad things never come alone. Two weeks after we reached out to the community garden coordinators through emails, when we did not receive as many responses as we thought we would. We realized that it was a moment when we needed another scope change. (So What?)
  6. We are planning to go forth with a qualitative research report rather than a quantitative one. We may need to set up interviews with specific community garden coordinators and participators. We will also reach out to the Richmond Food Security Society for more resources and information. Eventually we can get three different perspectives to provide inclusive evidences for our project if everything went smoothly.
  7. A positive response from Nelson Park Community Gardens encouraged us further to take on a qualitative research method, and sparked interest in a possible case study with them.

The Graceful Dismount (Now What)

Because of a late shift in our project, we now have even less time to complete a successful research project. We must be committed to staying very diligent on keeping our strategies and deadlines organized. An equal distribution of roles and communication between group members will be essential for success. Although we received such few and unexpected responses, this has given us valuable information and insight that will be useful in our qualitative research. We plan to interpret the lack of responses, rather than the responses themselves, in terms of accessibility to community gardens. Moreover, we plan on doing a case study research on Nelson Park, whom we got the most positive response from. Based on this, we hope to better understand challenges through a qualitative rather than quantitative approach.

Learning from Our Mistakes…

This project has had a slow beginning so far, but we are slowly feeling how it is picking up. We are excited to get responses from the emails we send and phone calls we make and start getting all our information together to really identify the problems faced by the non-English speaking communities of Vancouver.


  1. Our objectives and achievements:

Over these past few days, each team member finished the online tutorial and got the CORE certificate. We also completed the necessary consent form to be able to engage with the community. We received positive feedback on our presentation and blog post, and our team morale was boosted. To move forward with our project research we found coordinator’s contact information on the Vancouver Community Garden website, and each of us were assigned 10 coordinators to contact via email. An email template is presented at the end of this blog.

In the upcoming days, Victoria will contact those coordinators who have phone numbers instead of email addresses. However, some community gardens do not show any contact information online. We will first attempt to find contact information from their websites, but if this is unsuccessful we will plan to go to visit those gardens and ask them prepared questions. Hopefully, we will get prompt responses from as many coordinators as possible, then in future weeks we will work on analyzing the data.


  1. Connecting our project to the podcasts:

In the podcast “Poultry Slam: Act Three: Latin Liver” by This American Life, a New York Chef by the name of Dan Barber discovered a way to ethically feed geese and create a unique and coveted taste in foie gras from a Spaniard, Eduardo Sousa. As Dan mentioned in the podcast, ”every chef loves foie gras,” so he decided to try to raise geese the same way Eduardo Sousa does in Spain. Dan’s story of geese husbandry is fraught with failures over the course of three years. Like Dan, our group met our first setback during the past week when we received a poor mark on our group proposal report. We were disappointed with the feedback since we thought we had done an excellent job of the report when we handed it in. We learned that we had failed to be specific in our methodology and plans for our project. Our proposal needed to explicitly outline how we would measure success, and address the limitations of scope our project may face.

Although we failed to adequately articulate a few aspects of our project in our proposal, from this feedback we will be able to ensure our future work is more specific. The feedback from our proposal will be one of many missteps or failures that our group will encounter during this project. From listening to Dan’s story about goose farming, we know that it is important to expect these failures. For example Dan brought Eduardo to the states to better develop his goose farm, but by the end of the podcast Dan still expressed frustration with the difficulties of raising geese humanely. Although Dan acknowledged the issues at his farm, and implemented plans to fix them, it is still doubtful if his issue were ‘resolved’. In the same way, although we did poorly on the proposal and will work in the future to do better, there may not be clear ‘success’ at the end of our project. We also acknowledge that a grade on a report is only one way to assess our project, and that shouldn’t be our only marker of success.

To move forward with our project we will ensure that future assignments will closely follow the rubric and that any project plans are measurable. By following the guideline of the rubrics, we will be able to achieve the target and criteria for success. We hope that by creating measureable concrete plans we will be more successful at assessing the accessibility of community gardens in Vancouver. When trying to contact community coordinators we have already experienced how diverse each garden and program is, therefore it is difficult to compare them. By ensuring that we have clearly identified what we consider a garden and an application, then creating spaces for subjects that don’t fall into our definitions, we can ensure that we create and assess a holistic picture of Vancouver’s community gardens.


  1. Our future goals and steps for achieving them:

As we already created a draft if the e-mail to be sent to community garden contacts, our goals for this week are to divide up the e-mail list of all the contacts. The 7 of us are in charge of sending emails to 10 people on the list. As for the contacts that have phone numbers, Victoria will call them and gather their information; for this purpose, she will use the email draft as a script.

Once we have sent out the emails, the next steps are to wait for responses in order to start gathering data in a coherent manner and then start analyzing it. We will create an Excel document for this purposes, with various categories of responses; after a certain time, we will analyze all of them together.

As for the gardens that have neither emails nor phones, our goal for this week is to look for information on their webpage and try to find a way of contacting them. By our next meeting, we will compile this information and distribute those contacts between our group members. For the gardens that have no way of contacting them, we will divide them based on location (or language spoken in the case of “La Cosecha”) and aim to visit them within the week. After this whole process, we will be able to compile our relevant information and start analyzing the data.


Our Project is Underway!

Hi everyone! We are well into the second week of October, marking our 6 weeks together as a project group. Most of those days were spent getting to know each other and brainstorming ideas for our project. Now that we have a project skeleton, it’s time to reflect on some of our achievements so far, and some upcoming goals and objectives!

Last week we worked effectively in co-writing a project proposal report then presented this group proposal to our TA Josh and fellow students. The teaching staff and our tutorial group gave us feedback and suggestions about the project. With their input, we adjusted and completed the project plan and made a clear schedule for the next few weeks of goals and deadlines.

This week, we plan to finish the following tasks: by Thursday, Oct 15th, each member needs to complete the CORE tutorial and emails the certificate to our TA Josh. By the next day, Oct 16th, the consent form will be filled out. We will determine a list of community garden coordinators to contact and divide tasks between group members by Saturday, Oct 17th.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing though…we definitely hit a couple bumps on the road to formulating a project plan. Beginning the term as a newly formed group, we found out very quickly that we all shared an interest in urban farming, nutrition, and empowering at-risk children and family in developing a healthy relationship with their food. Like one of the Vancouver’s Food Strategies, we wanted to develop a project that would ‘improve access to healthy, affordable, and culturally diverse foods for all residents’. However, there were many different and conflicting ideas on what our project was going to entail, as well as an extensive list of goals. Enthusiastic about developing a grand project that was able to empower residents, our group initially aimed to create an after school gardening program, writing a gardening manual and even a cook book!

Our ambitious plan was not practical. In order to make our project achievable, we narrowed down our ideas, and brought our focus onto one specific issue related to the accessibility of community gardens. After much brainstorming, we came to a consensus on developing a project that would improve the accessibility of community gardens to non-English speakers in the city, especially new immigrants. Since most of our group members are immigrants who learned English as a second language upon moving to Vancouver, we found this project very fitting, as we could relate to the challenges of not having access to multilingual resources. Just like Sisonke Msimang (2014), we could empathize with the new immigrants and non-English speakers of the city.

In order to collect a complete set of data and to obtain accurate information for our research, it will be crucial for us to aim in contacting one hundred percent of the community garden coordinators. We must ensure each community garden application and resource are thoroughly surveyed, in order to carry out the essential steps needed to improve the accessibility of community gardens for everyone.

There are upsides and downsides of the action we took to counterpart the difficulties we faced. For one, we will be able to finish the designed project on time by not doing complicated tasks, while focusing on getting a more accurate and reliable result from the data collected. However, it is possible that we cannot pay attention to other difficulties that non-native speakers have in their garden application process, such as cultural or other ethical differences.

Looking forward…

Our next objective is to complete formulating set of questions to ask community garden coordinators and to make a general outline of formal emails, which will be sent out to the coordinators by Tuesday, Oct 20. To achieve this, we will first brainstorm together as a group and then come up with some questions regarding the accessibility of community gardens for local residents. Specifically, we will bring up questions with respect to language barriers and its impact on community garden participation. We will ask the coordinators about the general demographic information of their communities. We will also inquire about the availability of multilingual applications. If their application forms are available only in English, we will assess how difficult it is to comprehend the application for new immigrants who barely speak English in their day-to-day life. After completing the questions, we will identify the community garden coordinators and find out their contact information online. Our last step is to contact them via email. We aim to contact as many community garden coordinators as possible because we cannot guarantee a 100% reply from all of them; besides, the more data we collect, the more reliable and accurate our result will be.

Our second upcoming objective is to actually start contacting community garden coordinators, gathering data and making appointments; we hope to eventually be able to visit some of these gardens in order to gain more data. Our strategy for that is to divide the community gardens by region and assign a region per team member, thus spreading out the work and assuring each community garden has a contact within our group. This will happen on October 21st. We will then put the feedbacks from the coordinators together, and pick out the community gardens that respond most positively to arrange consent for making visits. Then we will write out questions to ask when we make the site visits, interview people present at the gardens, and analyse our data based on our findings.

For the community gardens that we did not visit, we will simply use the information gathered from the original survey.


About this blog…

Welcome to our project space! Here, we will be documenting ideas, updates, and the progress of our community gardens accessibility project throughout the term.

Who we are…

We are Group 16 from LFS 350…here is a group picture of us!

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From left to right: Yvaine Ye, Ana Gargollo, Victoria Janzen, Mary Cao, Lydia Liu, Kathy Wang, Cheerie Fan

Yvaine Ye
Hi everyone, my name is Yvaine. I am currently a third year FNH student. As a matter of fact, the reason I chose to apply to LFS back in high school was that I was a foodie (like probably everyone else here)! The sad thing is, after taking many nutrition courses, I have not enjoyed a fatty burger with a side of fries for years. I would definitely call FNH a life-changing major for ruining my fun.

Ana Gargollo
Hi! My name is Ana and I am currently in my second year of the Global Resource Systems program, but third year overall at UBC. I am very interested in sustainability and I am actually specializing in Urban Sustainability in Latin America. I think urban food systems are a major part of this and I am very interested in urban farming, like community gardens, personal gardens and edible landscaping. I also think zero-waste initiatives are very cool, especially those regarding the massive amounts of food being wasted by industry and households alike.

Victoria Janzen
Hi! My name is Victoria, and I am studying food systems and nutrition in North America through the Global Resource Systems program. I’m interested in finding solutions to the obesity epidemic in our communities through improving awareness and access to sustainable food sources. I believe in creating healthy communities that are actively involved in growing and creating delicious foods.

Mary Cao
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Hey, Mary here! I am a third year FNH student aspiring to enter the dietetics program, and hoping to someday specialize in pediatric nutrition! I love to hike in the summer and shred some serious pow in the winter. I’m super excited about this group project and I know we will accomplish great things!

Lydia Liu
Hi! My name is Qianru and I go by Lydia. I’m majoring in Nutritional sciences and I’m interested in food and its impact on our health and wellbeing. Growing up, I have always considered food as an important part of my life. I enjoy dining out with my friends and family but I am also fond of trying new recipes at home! I am very much intrigued by the science behind food and cooking. However to me, food is more than just a bunch of nutrients I put in our body to sustain my life; it also creates memories, social bonds and joy.  

Kathy Wang
Hello! I am Kathy and my major is FNH. After studying nutrition, I realized the importance of a balanced diet. I am particularly interested in supplementation as an alternative source of essential nutrients. I enjoy many food-related activities such as cooking and gardening vegetables. I am looking forward to connect with community gardens through this project.

Cheerie Fan
Hi there, my name is Cheerie and my major is Nutritional Science. My interests lie in the diet’s effects on people’s daily performances and multicultural foods and ingredients. As an international student, I’ve been amazed by all the different kinds of culinary traditions and cultural stories behind foods here since moving to Vancouver.

Our project…

The objective of our project is to assess the language barriers in the application process for Vancouver Community Gardens. We want to see if the demographic of neighbourhoods is reflected in community garden participation to see if the application process is a barrier to diversity in community gardens. We wish to assess the multilingual assets that community gardens have for members whose primary language isn’t English. We hope to compile suggestions for the city of Vancouver and community gardens of ways they could improve access for immigrant communities, with the ultimate goal of encouraging community involvement for minority groups in Vancouver. Since we will be surveying community gardens across Vancouver, our community partner will hopefully be a contact at the City of Vancouver who orchestrates the community gardens.

Why a community gardens project?

As a group, we share common interests regarding to urban farming issues. We think that it is important to provide accessibility to all Vancouver residents to fresh produce and community gardens. Our group is consists of people with multiple cultural backgrounds, and as a result, we recognize that although Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in Canada. We would like to study the struggles faced by the minority groups and possibly provide a practical strategy to improve their access to community gardens.

It wasn’t until two full tutorial sessions of brainstorming and discussions that our group came to a consensus on a project. The abundance of great ideas and different interests within our group made it difficult to find a primary focus. At first, ideas varied from implementing an after school gardening program, creating a gardening manual, and writing a vegetable garden cookbook. After listening to Ernesto Sirolli’s TED Talk, we realized that instead of coming into a community and implementing a program or giving them a product that may or may not be useful to them, it would be more effective to dive into the roots of an issue and address basic needs first. This is when we shifted our focus to Vancouver’s multiculturally diverse demographics, and how we could make our community gardens accessible to everyone, especially for those who speak a different primary language.

We want to ensure that minority groups in Vancouver have equal access to community gardens, as the needs of the minority are sometimes overlooked. What’s more, most of the minorities are immigrants or those who have recently moved to Vancouver, and there may be language and cultural barriers that may restrict them from communicating with local people and expressing their needs. The second reason is that many of our group members are from different countries and thus bilingual. Having bilingual group members can be an advantage for us to easily talk to those immigrants who express an interest in appylying for community gardens, but are unsure of where to start. 

What are your group’s goals for this project?

Our goals for this project are focused on increasing accessibility to community gardens in Vancouver, especially regarding access for minorities in the region. We believe urban farming is a great asset to any community, and believe immigrants, both recent and old-timers, should have access to this. We also wish to increase awareness of the benefits of community gardens, emphasizing the importance of people engaging in the food production of their own community. Through this improved accessibility and awareness, we wish to achieve the goal of the Vancouver Food Strategy of empowering residents, encouraging them to take control of their food sources and nutrition.

What does your group wish to gain from this project?

By working on this project, we hope to obtain a better understanding of community food systems and asset-based community development principles. We hope to apply the concepts and skills we have learned in LFS course series to strengthen connections, especially among minority groups,  in a community food system. This hands-on experience will help us understand the obstacles and uncertainties we have to face when it comes to developing a community based program and hopefully this will give us the confidence to tackle similar challenges in the future. We also hope to gain insight into the difficulties that new immigrants face if they want to participate in their community gardens. As mentioned before, we aim to build or strengthen connections between local residents and their community food systems. And with the background of Vancouver being one of the most multicultural cities in Canada,  we feel the need to address this issue that is holding new immigrants back in community involvement, which is the inadequacy of translated materials for minority groups.

How will your group ensure your project’s success?

Utilizing the principles of Asset-Based Community Development, we hope to build on the pre-existing community gardens within the city and increase their accessibility to non-English speaking residents. We plan to use resources within the university and cultural centres to achieve this our project goals.

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