Harvesting Community Stories is a community-based project with the purpose of collecting stories from the stakeholders involved in the Inner City Farms (ICF) network, a local organization that converts landowners’ unused yards into productive urban farms. Through analysis of these stories our aim is to identify some recommendations that will expand the farm’s outreach to community members who have no pre-existing connections or involvement with ICF, and therefore diversifying their demographics and community engagement. The questions we aimed to address through the interviews were: What do different groups of people think about Inner City Farms; how demographic diversity affects opinions about the program; and how can we make recommendations to improve the program by analyzing the data we will gather. In order to gain a diverse range of perspectives we spent an afternoon in the Hastings-Sunrise neighborhood where two of ICF’s farms are located, as well as another at a community-supported agriculture (CSA) pick-up. We interviewed 19 people in total including residents of the neighborhood, pedestrians, farm volunteers and community-supported agriculture (CSA) members both in person and via email. Our results concluded that many of the CSA members who directly benefit from ICF felt an increased awareness of where their food comes and the benefits of consuming locally produced food, while other community members felt disengaged due to having zero to minimal knowledge of ICF’s services and urban food production in general. We recognize that with more time, we would be able to conduct more interviews, use social media and other platforms to expand our reach, in order to represent a wider scope of perspectives and determine existing barriers on urban food production in Vancouver.
This Community-Based Experiential Learning project looks to be invaluable to the program we are working with, Inner City Farms. As we have mentioned throughout the semester, our intent is to bridge the gaps between the community and the organization. We believe that just like any other program, feedback is integral in making informed decisions moving forward and if there is not feedback from the community, the decisions may be bias. The overarching theme of our report focused on who Inner City Farms is connected to. Many of the community members that were connected to Inner City Farms had a prior connection to urban agriculture, the Faculty of Land and Food Systems or one of the CSA members. On the flip side, the community members that were not in touch with Inner City Farms did not have pre-existing connections to agriculture or the faculty in general.
I would like to bring up a past radio episode that was required for LFS 350. This was in the second flexible learning class. “A Pragmatic Idealist” is the name of the story where Sisonke Msimang talks about the lessons she learned from her friend Prudence. The theme to Sisonke’s story was listening and this was also an important theme that was identified in our CBEL project. We have identified that many of the community members felt disconnected from the Inner City Farms organization. Similar to Sisonke’s case, Inner City Farms strives to make an impact within the community; an impact that can and should look to encompass every member of the community. There are many people within the community that are at risk for food and nutrition insecurity. This fraction of the community, still members of the community, have little input to the development of the farms especially when they lack knowledge of urban agriculture and lack a connection to Inner City Farms. The “Pragmatic Idealist” in our CBEL project is the organization of Inner City Farms. The silence would be the unheard voices of people that are absent from Inner City Farms. Just being situated in the community is not enough to make an impact on the community. Inner City Farms needs to be able to communicate with community as well as fully integrate themselves to the four corners of the whole community in order to be able to seriously create an impact.
Our original task was to facilitate communication and knowledge between the current community members with the organization in order to fill in gaps of knowledge that Inner City Farms had. Instead, by hearing what was not being said, we were able to identify a whole subgroup of the community that were being left out of the discussion. We feel as though this was Will and Camil’s intended purpose of the project. In the beginning, this project began with no clear purpose and as we progressed, our difficulties with stopping and speaking to community members led us to identifying this new subgroup. Inner City Farms is an organization that is growing quickly with a strong moral compass for the community as well as the environment. There are many different pathways that it can take but the key to each and every one of them is to ensure they are informed decisions with consideration of the whole and not just the parts of community that are convenient to the organization.