An urban orchard takes root in Vancouver

Mobile planter boxes with fruit trees at the Great Northern Way Urban OrchardMobile planter boxes with fruit trees at the Great Northern Way Urban Orchard

What was once stark pavement is now alive with small birds and bright green foliage. Over the last few weeks, an orchard has begun to take shape in a small post-industrial site on the Great Northern Way Campus, home of Evergreen BC.

In Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future, the City identified local food systems as an essential aspect of urban health and sustainability. The Great Northern Way Community Orchard responds to this initiative, serving as a venue for research in the field of urban agriculture, while addressing a number of pressing social, environmental and economic needs including increasing community food sovereignty and access to green space.

On May 28, enthusiastic volunteers joined us to prepare the orchard site and plant over 30 locally adapted apple trees, dozens of strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries and more. This is no ordinary orchard—by using huge planter boxes to grow the trees, volunteers completely transformed the space from cement and gravel to urban oasis, without having to use a jackhammer. The orchard remains “mobile,” so that in future years, the planter boxes can be moved to different locations.

With the help of local youth, the Evergreen team will be working hard over the summer to expand and animate the space. Local artists will be invited to participate in the creation of a “green community hub,” where people can enjoy a melding of urban food production, green space and creative construction. In the coming months, we will host a Fall Harvest Festival and other small community engagement events to connect the neighbourhood with their new source of local food.

Interested in working with us to create green space and food security in the heart of Vancouver? Email Helen Beynon, Community Development Coordinator, at hbeynon@evergreen.ca, to receive updates on upcoming orchard events and volunteer opportunities. We are always looking for passionate people to help maintain and grow the orchard to it’s full potential!