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Largest urban orchard in North America opens in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver opened it’s latest urban orchard today.

At close to 500 trees, it’s the largest one if it’s kind in North America.

Leased by social enterprise SOLEfood from the city, the orchard employs people from the Downtown Eastside.

The company operates four other urban farms which produced close to 30 tonnes of produce last year, 10 per cent of it having been donated to the food agencies in the Downtown Eastside.

The city saw nine new community gardens planted in 2012, bringing the total number to 16.

The orchard is on a city-owned brownfield lot, leased to SOLEfood from the city for $1 a year.

“Our greenest city goal includes increasing the amount of local food and strengthening the green economy in Vancouver, and SOLEfood’s new urban orchard does just that,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a release.

Robertson toured the orchard and took part in the planting. “This is a great example of the kind of innovative urban agriculture that is thriving in Vancouver, and making our city and SOLEfood a world-leader when it comes to supporting local food in an urban environment.”

“We need to reduce the distance that food is travelling from the field to the plate. We need more urban dwellers to be participants in how that food gets to them,” says SOLEfood founder Michael Ableman.

He says the non-profit’s three other urban farms in the city produce only vegetables so the orchard lets them break into new territory.

“This new site at Main and Terminal is entirely focused on tree crops. Of course real easte is very valuable so by growing tree crops, you’re taking advantage of vertical space,” says Ableman.

SOLEfood produced over 30 tons of food last year, and is projecting double that amount for this year. It donates close to 10 per cent of its produce to agencies in the Downtown Eastside.

He’s hopefull of doubling that output this year.

The urban orchard at Main and Terminal will produce apples, pears, plums, figs, persimmons, and lemons, among others.

The site was last used as a Petro Canada station, and has been vacant for over ten years. City council unanimously approved leasing the City site to SOLEfood in February 2012 for a dollar per year.

The opening of the new urban orchard at Main and Terminal follows a number of accomplishments by the City in urban food production, including:

  • 761 new community garden plots created in Vancouver since 2010, a 25 per cent increase
  • the land area of urban farms has increased from 2.3 acres to 8.28 acres since 2010
  • two new farmers markets added since 2010, a 25 per cent increase
  • nine new community orchards planted in 2012, for a total of 16