How To Plant A Parking Lot: The SOLEfood Urban Farm Raising

Posted on: November 16th, 2009 by Heather

How To Plant A Parking Lot: The SOLEfood Urban Farm Raising

You’ve heard all the bad news stories in the Downtown East Side, now how about some good news for a change?

A diverse group of community-oriented organizations and hundreds of volunteers have been working throughout the fall in an effort to turn 5 empty lots on Hastings Street into a fully functioning urban farm in time for spring.

To achieve this goal, volunteers will be building 100 planters and 40 compost bins made from recycled pallets. Their second build event, or Urban Farm Raising, will be held this Sunday, November 2nd at 10am at the corner of Hastings and Hawkes. The first event, held last month exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“We had more than one hundred volunteers come out and finish thirty planters before lunch. It blew me away.” says Bryce Gauthier director of The Projects In Place Society.

Projects In Place has been coordinating the design and event planning for United We Can, the acclaimed Downtown East Side non-profit that specializes in creating economic opportunities for residents on the downtown east side. The Farm has been dubbed SOLEfood, after United We Can’s Save Our Living Environment Initiative.

“SOLEfood will be run as a business,” says Seann Dory, Sustainability Manager at United We Can. “We hope to provide part-time jobs for 12 Downtown East Side residents, most of whom will have some kind of employment barrier that makes it hard for them to hold a full-time job.”

Building Opportunities With Business (BOB) was instrumental in bringing Projects In Place, United We Can and many other like-minded  groups together, in the hope that green collar job opportunities like SOLEfood will be bring a range of social, environmental and economic improvements to The Downtown East Side. The development of the farm itself has been an ongoing process that came out of those discussions.

Dory sees the farm as a way to provide, “…inner city residents with employment; and community kitchens, local residents, restaurants and caterers with access to a valuable source of local and organic food. Once complete, the hope is that SOLEfood will become not just a farm, but a social hub and information source.”

“You start with a vision,” adds Gauthier, “but turning that vision into something that one hundred volunteers can build in one day – isn’t easy.”

Gauthier, who works for Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architects, says he started The Projects In Place Society as a way to make more community improvement projects happen.

“The biggest impediment to building anything is always money,” he says. “But one hundred people working together represents a lot of working capital. If you have that, the rest falls into place pretty quickly.”

Those hundred people are starting to fashion some pretty positive stories in the Downtown East Side.

Start time at 10am, but volunteers are welcome throughout the day. In order to participate, all volunteers must register with<> . Light refreshments will also be provided on site.

For directions, to the farm, click this link;