GREENLIGHT: Watch The Frack Out Of The Trailer For Rayher & Gillis’ ‘Fractured Land’

January 17, 2013 

by Claudia Chan | With the world’s demand for energy booming, Enbridge begging for a pipeline stretching from northern Alberta to BC, Kinder Morgan wanting to increase the number of tankers right here in Burrard Inlet, and Haliburton fracking on indigenous land to extract natural gas, British Columbians face a battery of increasingly clear and present dangers to their environmental and physical health. Filmmakers Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher of Fractured Land (fracturedland.com) are trying to tell us this important story through the prism of Caleb Behn, a young First Nations lawyer from northeastern BC who is working to defend his peoples’ land from some of the most intense industrial activity in the world. Having followed Caleb for two years now, the filmmakers are currently raising funds through Indiegogo to complete their documentary ($28,000 raised so far, with a little over a day left in the campaign). Check out the trailer above.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: On Just How Easy It Is To Raise Chickens In The Heart Of Vancouver

by Claudia Chan | While backyard chickens are relatively new in Vancouver, they’re just a feathered facet of normality in many countries. In my travels, I recall being woken up by the cock-a-doodling of roosters (against the blaring of prayers) in countries like Tunisia and Indonesia. Chickens are globally prevalent, often kept in the courtyards of families or let out to roam free. In most countries you will often find them by the beach, walking around restaurants, and even walking down the street. For many cultures, the fowl is a staple food. They’re easy and cheap to raise and maintain, and not only do they provide good meat and bones for stock, they also produce wholesome eggs.

In Vancouver, I find that chickens often go unnoticed because keepers are only allowed hens in their coops, and hens don’t cluck as loudly as roosters do (thankfully). It also seems that keeping chickens hasn’t quite become as popular as one would assume, given their myriad benefits. Curious, I decided to find out more about backyard chickens in Vancouver by paying a visit to some neighbours who just happen to be very happy owners of a couple of hens.

In the photo above you can see Russell Gendron (red toque), Dylan Jones (short hair, hoodie) and Tresler Jones (long hair), three Vancouverites who have been tending to chickens for just under a year now in Strathcona. They tell me it’s been well worth it. Each hen produces an egg a day, so they collect a decent supply for their house. Russell took on this homesteading project when he saw some friends do it after the city passed a by-law allowing it in 2010. He started doing some research of his own on coop building, city regulations, and animal care.

Each home is allowed a maximum of four hens (no chicks) for egg-laying and they must be housed in a coop with a proper roof, fencing, nesting box and ventilation (specs must adhere to strict design requirements). Building the coop was the most laborious part of it all, Russell says. Otherwise, they’re pretty easy to look after. After the hardest part was done, he filled out an online registry, bought some chickens off Craigslist for $10 each, and brought them back to their new home. Ever since, the household has saved on grocery store trips and eating fresh, and tasty eggs sourced straight from the backyard.

If you’re feeling ever so inspired to raise some chickens of your own or you’d like to learn more about the process, there’s a wealth of resources available online available. Have a gander at Backyard Chickens, Chickens in Vancouver, Daily Eggs, Village Vancouver, and City Farmer. Alternatively, go visit the nice folks at the Homesteader’s Emporium; they’ve got everything you need to start raising backyard chickens.

Bok bok.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: So Let’s Say It’s A Few Days Before Christmas And You Need Gift Ideas

December 21, 2012 

by Claudia Chan | If you’re still putting together a few last minute gifts here at the tail end of the holiday countdown, allow me to throw a few green-inspired ideas at you…

1. Get in on a CSA box (Community-supported Agriculture) with Sole Food. Give the gift of weekly fresh, seasonal vegetables from an inner-city farm that supports DTES residents/apprentice farmers.

Full Share – $500 ($25/week for 20 weeks)
Half Share – $300 ($15/week for 20 weeks)
Salad Share – $150 ($15/week for 10 weeks)
Winter Share – $450($20/week for 15 weeks)
Family share including delivery – $35/week

2. From the Soap Dispensary on Main St.: refillable premium bio-degradable soaps in a little wooden box with a plant-based sponge.  They’re a great, practical and eco-friendly gift that should encourage all of us to do a little bit more cleaning on the regular.

3. Ulat wool dryer balls make great stocking stuffers. Not only are they locally made and cost-effective, they’re energy-effective (they decrease drying time from 30-50%). A set of three goes for $30 at Benny’s on Union Street.

4. How much sweeter can you be than Mellifera Bees? Melissa Cartwright makes the best honey in town, produced from hives all over the city and the Lower Mainland. We’re talking about delicious, highly aromatic, hand-crafted honey infusions! There are jars with lemon, cardamom and vanilla infusions available for $15 at Harvest Community Foods.

5. Get nerdy! For those who enjoy foraging and are curious about wild things that grow here on the Coast, this is the book for you. You can find Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast at the Homesteader’s Emporium for $24.75. It’ a great identification book to bring along for all your walks in the woods.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: Inside The Tiny “Athena Atelier” Pop-Up In Gastown’s Parking Spot

by Claudia Chan | Local designer Athena Theny has set up shop in a 120 square foot space on the southeast corner of Cordova and Carrall. The space is the revolving pop-up host cGREalled Parking Spot. It’s a small showcase room offered free to local creative entrepreneurs who want to explore and develop their art and ideas. Recently, several UBC Masters of Architecture students transformed it into Athena Atelier, where Theny creates and displays her most exquisite collection of traditionally tanned leather goods and nautically inspired jewellery.

I paid a visit to temporary store to take a look at all her wares. The small space has a beautiful aesthetic; adorned with a stretched hide against the wooden walls, tanned leathers, furs, antlers and even a rope swing that hangs from the ceiling (I couldn’t resist having a few swings myself).

Deeply inspired by traditional aboriginal practices, Athena makes ethically sourced, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible leather necklaces, bags, vests, moccasins, mitts, clutches and pouches. She also has a line of jewelry consisting of rings and necklaces cast in the shape of nautical knots, alluding to family stories told to her by her grandfather who lived in the wild and her great grandfather who was a fisherman.

Theny explains that most of the world’s leather products are tanned with chemicals such as chromium, which damages ecologies and vulnerable populations in third-world countries such as India and China (the chromium is washed off from the hides and seeps into their drinking water). The trade’s sourcing of animal hides is often questionable as well.

Having learned from various mentors in her First Nations studies at Simon Fraser University, a local urban aboriginal group as well as with the Algonquin peoples in Québec, Theny uses traditional leather tanning practices. She spends at least 20 hours processing hide. This entails removing the flesh and hair on either side of the hide and tanning it with the brains of the animal. You can also tan it with something as simple as Sunlight soap. She explains, “Tanning the hides in this way produces a leather that’s more water-resistant, that has a softer texture and that’s longer lasting, and therefore maintaining the integrity of animal skin.” Theny sources her materials from hunters that she’s cultivated relationships with over the years. She highlights the importance of being aware of how the animal was honoured, how all the parts its body were used and how she can trace the hide back to who killed and ate the animal.

To learn more about Theny and her designs, you can visit the atelier at 8 E. Cordova. The shop is open by appointment during the weekdays and on Saturdays 12 – 7. And when you stop in, make sure you give the swing a try!

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: “The Soap Dispensary” Set To Celebrate Their 1st Anniversary On Main

November 28, 2012 

by Claudia Chan | It’s good – though sad – to remember that plastic doesn’t really disappear when you throw it out. There’s a lot of it, and seeing that it doesn’t biodegrade, every piece of it ever made still exists. I was talking about this last week with Linh Truong of The Soap Dispensary when she brought up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s really quite appalling — we’re talking about a huge soup of trash, of which 90% is plastic, accumulated into a stationary mass through the rhythmic action of oceanic currents in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, devastating seabird populations and generally being a floating indictment of our wastefulness (it’s twice the size of Texas). To give you an idea of what that looks like, watch this video by artist Chris Jordan.

Anyway, it was with this in mind that Linh began to help people reduce their use of plastic in their households. Her shop at 3623 Main St. offers refills of premium eco-friendly soaps, house cleaners and personal care products to lessen the number of single-use bottles from ending up in our landfills, watersheds and recycling systems. “While recycling is good, it’s really not the first stage in terms of sustainable practices,” she says. “Bottles are sturdy. They’re made to last a long time and they never biodegrade. So why not reuse them? If you can reuse something, I strongly feel that you should.”

When she was living in Victoria between 2004 and 2009, Linh was a regular at the Soap Exchange. When they moved over here, they were surprised that no such thing existed. Last year, they decided to introduce the concept, which means they no longer have to bring all their bottles with them back to the Island for refills when visiting friends.

Linh says the neighbourhood has been really supportive so far and that customers are enthusiastic about bottle reusage, buying refillable products, sharing knowledge on ecological ways of keeping a household, and participating in DIY workshops (held at the store). Their first anniversary is on December 8th and to celebrate they’re throwing a Customer Appreciation Party. Everyone will receive 15% off of all refillable products when they bring your their owns bottles, and Linh will be revealing the number of plastic bottles that the store has diverted from landfills since it opened. So be sure to pop in and congratulate her on this tremendous effort. If you’re so inspired to learn about reducing your plastic footprint, the Soap Dispensary is as great a place as any to start. Take a look…

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: Talking Shop With “Eco Fashion Week” Founder Myriam Laroche

November 15, 2012 

by Claudia Chan | I recently had the chance to go shopping with the very stylish Myriam Laroche, president and founder of Eco Fashion Week. We went around to some of her favourite stores in town (Deluxe Junk and Community Thrift & Vintage pictured above), during which time she shared her enthusiasm for Vancouver’s new wave of sustainability in fashion. She spoke at length of her 18 years working in the corporate apparel and fashion trade at home in her native Montreal, back when she was a buyer for chain companies like Historia and Jacob, and how the experience forever changed her attitude towards fashion. She found that there was cumulatively more and more unnecessary waste in the business, so after she moved out west and immersed herself in the environmental movement here, she took her experience and passion for fashion and integrated it with the principles of sustainable practices. Soon afterwards, Eco Fashion Week was born. Laroche has since dedicated a lot of her time to the entirely volunteer-run celebration of local, sustainable fashion in the hope that it might serve to educate the public and industry members about ethical production and consumption. Of course people are always going to keep buy things, she says, but it’s all about how you do it.

Here’s some of her advice on how to shop ethically,

1. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I really need it?” Shopping can be an addictive behaviour and in order to change that, you can change the way you think about it.

2. Wherever you buy, get educated about the origins of the product and its materials. Great websites to check out include Eco Fashion World and Eco Salon.

3. Learn about the store or the company you are buying from and the vendor’s philosophy.

4. Buy vintage or consigned clothing from places like Value Village, Deluxe Junkie, Community Thrift or Front & Company.

5. Support a local designer. Some of Myriam’s favourites include Nicole Bridger, Melissa Ferreirra, Kim Cathers, Lindsay Walsh, Gypsy Market at One of a Kind, and Wings + Horns at Roden Gray.

Consider these points on your next shopping adventure and remember that the changes you make don’t have to be drastic. Start slowly and know that you’re not just shopping responsibly for yourself but also for your local and larger communities, and for the greater well-being of the planet.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: Out Foraging For Wild Foods With Tyler Gray Of “Mikuni Wild Harvest”

by Claudia Chan with photos by Michelle Sproule | In our beautiful woods the wild things grow. What many of us urbanites easily forget, however, is that that same abundance thrives with edible plants and fungi. We depended on this wild plant life for our survival during most of the course of human existence, living symbiotically with nature by harvesting only what we needed and learning about the health benefits of different plants by spending much of our waking hours cleaning, processing, cooking, and eating them.

That all changed with the industrialization of our food systems. We’ve become so far removed from nature that the idea of going out to the forest for own own dinner sounds not only ridiculous, but also impossible. We’ve become accustomed to pushing grocery carts through store aisles and eating produce from boxes packed a hemisphere away.

The revival of the locavore movement has inspired some enthusiasts to return to the old practices; to recapture some of the traditional wisdom about food and the medicinal values of plants and fungi. Vancouverite Tyler Gray is one of their number.

Born and bred on the Sunshine Coast, Gray is one of the rarest of our species: a hunter and gatherer of the 21st century, one who has turned a passion for the wild into a career. He learned the tricks of his outdoor trade having spent ample time foraging for wild foods in and around Sechelt. He gives credit to his mom and grandparents, who taught him the ways of the woods and about all the treasures that grow within. “My grandparents were the original locavores,” he says, adding that “they could never tell you what that word means. They just lived that way because it’s how they were raised. They grew up in a really small town and they ended up farming, foraging and hunting all of their food. They also canned and pickled. So those trades got passed down to my mom and I was raised in that culture.”

Since 2004, having inherited that knowledge and experience, Gray has led a successful specialty wild foods distribution company called Mikuni Wild Harvest. Mikuni means “beautiful forest” in Japanese. It’s a fitting brand, as the products the company carries include some of the most exquisite and unique things that come from the woods. Think fiddleheads, caviar licorice root, chanterelles, Matsutake mushrooms, wild watercress, sea asparagus, and so on. The list of available edibles from Mikuni is huge.

On a recent (and very wet) forest walkabout with Gray, I learned that scavenging for such things required a good pair of hunting eyes, some experience, and a whole lot of confidence. You don’t want to eat just any kind of plant out there and you certainly don’t want to take a chance with mushrooms. Gray has years of practice under his belt, so it was clear on our walk that he knew where to look and what to look for (admittedly, I didn’t have a clue). But it’s not just him doing the hunting and gathering. He procures some of the finest products from a few of the most experienced foragers in North America. Those suppliers include a 70-year-old Cherokee Native American named “Running Squirrel” and a ramp forager from West Virginia named “Crazy Harry”. Read more

GREENLIGHT: Local Company “Patch” Brings Urban Gardening Inside The Home

by Claudia Chan | The city feels like it’s going through a major growth spurt right now, a green one that is. More than ever before, community gardens, urban farms, and front yard plots are popping up at the turn of every corner. And it’s no wonder, really. Food-growing space in the city is increasingly hard to come by and is therefore very much sought after. Urban farmers and avid gardeners have proven to be resourceful and innovative with their uses of space – from rooftops, public parks, and abandoned expanses to fences off, unused parking lots. Of all these possibilities though, one of the best places to start growing food is in the comfort of your own home. And all you need is a sleek little white planter box.

Patch Planters is an urban agriculture initiative that allows you to grow edible greens and culinary herbs both outdoors and indoors. I like to think of it as a miniature DIY (do-it-yourself) farming concept. It’s a simple, transportable, wholly versatile container box that produces greens just about anywhere – on your windowsill, tabletop, porch, or in your kitchen, classroom, even your office.

Kent Houston, the director of the Vancouver-born company, came up with the idea when his landscape contracting company volunteered with the building of the first SoleFood Farm site at Hastings and Hawks a few years ago. From his experience there, he recognized an opportunity to provide a solution for urban agriculture efforts – a portable container system that would last longer and offer more functional qualities. Instead of using traditional planters that require a lot of wood, eventually biodegrade and go to the landfill, he opted to design a compact planter box that’s fully recyclable made with Tyvex and 60% post-consumerist materials.

Patches come with a built-in sub-irrigation system. In other words, it self-waters. A small amount of soil sits in a screened in-section of a reservoir at the bottom of the container. The soil wicks the water up into the rest of the soil through capillary action; similar to the way a sponge soaks up water. The beauty of the Patch planter is that you can’t underwater or overwater and it gives you a greater yield because it always has the perfect amount of H2O. Even the most careless among us will never have to worry about killing our plants.

Patch is farming made easy. It challenges the idea that growing food is time-consuming, difficult, back-breaking, gruelling work. In fact, it makes growing vegetables simple, fun and accessible. Truly anybody can grow food, including yourself.

Don’t let the turn of the cold season discourage you. It’s not too late to start growing greens like arugula, romaine lettuce, mint and parsley for the winter. Just make sure your Patch gets enough light at a south-facing window (alternatively, some inexpensive fluorescent lamps would also do the trick).

Patch is really keen on supporting local non-profit initiatives. Currently, they’re working in collaboration with Growing Chefs!, a project that I’m a big fan of (I volunteered with them this past Spring), and with the purchase of a planter online, they donate another to a classroom to teach kids about growing food.

You can also get your Patch at Walrus on Cambie and at Strathcona’s Harvest Community Foods.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #189: We Put A Big Fir Tree In Every Roundabout

by Claudia Chan | I recently came across this animated gif in my FB news feed. It’s a reconstructed image of what a Vancouver street could have looked like in 1914 and what it potentially could look like in the future. Pretty cool. It wasn’t uncommon for large trees to loom over city streets at the turn of the century when our city was still in its infancy. If city planners had just left them there, we would practically be living in an old growth forest by now.

As part of their exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery this past May, the designers of Goodweather Collective put forth this “retroprojective” proposal where giant trees would sit in the middle of neighbourhood roundabouts. By borrowing this idea from the past, they were re-imagining how we could marry urban and forest spaces together. I could just imagine the little kids just loving it – spending hours running around the roundabout tree. They would have the best of both worlds – the city and the forest in their own front yard.

It would be a pretty bold and avantgardist way of re-landscaping the city, and I think most folks would dig it. I’m just not sure how urban planners would react to the idea given that a roundabout tree might pose as an earthquake or lightning hazard. Still, I’m not opposed to a massive three hundred year old Douglas Fir down the middle of my street. You?

OTHER CIVIC IMPROVEMENT SUGGESTIONS

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: The Skinny On SOLEfood, A Project All Vancouverites Can Be Proud Of

by Claudia Chan | You’ve probably taken notice to the appearance of 3,000 some odd planter boxes in the parking lot below the Georgia Street Viaducts since the last year, or the lush green garden that sits next to the Astoria Hotel on East Hastings. There’s also another site of green things growing by the train tracks under the First Avenue bridge at Clark. And more are coming. SOLEfood - the project behind it all – seeks to gain more ground by borrowing abandoned spaces (parking lots and former gas stations) on three-year leases and transforming them into viable urban farming sites. In the next year, they look forward to acquiring new territory by Main & Terminal and around False Creek.

As part of its vision to revitalize the Downtown Eastside, SOLEfood is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides gainful employment for inner-city residents. Currently, they have 20 apprentice farmers from the neighbourhood who are learning to seed, harvest, prune, clean, and water the various sites alongside expert farmer/writer Michael Ableman.

How did it all get started? In 2008, one of the founding members of the Young Agrarians, a fellow named Seann Dory, was working as the Manager of Sustainability with United We Can, the umbrella organization overseeing many different projects that help create jobs for people with barriers to traditional employment (such as mental illness and addiction). Seann contacted Michael, hoping to receive practical help to launching SOLEfood. Michael told him that he would attend just one meeting.

Convinced of its viability and worth after just that one meeting, Michael has since been hopping on a seaplane twice a week between Foxglove Farm (his home on Salt Spring Island) and Vancouver. With the support of the Greenest City Grant, the Vancity Envirofund, local philanthropists and various businesses, he and Seann have created the largest urban farming project in the city. And as we’ve seen, it’s been making a difference.

With a sustainable food systems model in place, SOLEfood is making a strong case for hyper-local food. By employing local residents, growing food in our own neighbourhoods, and distributing produce to some of our favourite restaurants, they’re leaving a close to zero carbon footprint. They now have an extensive selection of organic produce that includes strawberries, chard, kale, corn salad, spinach, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs and, more recently, rice on raised beds!

Where can you find the stuff? SOLEfood products are available at the various Farmer’s Markets in town as well as at many local restaurants (Acorn, Harvest, The Irish Heather Gastropub, Judas Goat Taberna, Salt Tasting Room, Bitter, and more). You can also support the project by participating in their Community Supported Agriculture program. As a member, you choose to pre-pay a certain amount for the produce you’d like to receive. If you’re just curious, you can always peek in at one of their farms – rain or shine – and say hello to the folks greening their thumbs.

For more information about SOLEfood, visit 1sole.wordpress.com.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: On The Green Monster That Lurks Under Gastown’s Nicli Antica Pizzeria

by Claudia Chan | Imagine a garden that requires practically no effort – no need to haul manure to and fro, no seeding, no fertilizing and no heavy equipment. You don’t even have to water it. The Urban Cultivator is urban farming reconsiderd. Your garden couldn’t get any simpler nor closer because it’s growing right in your kitchen. It’s a hydroponic appliance (a refrigerator lookalike) that houses micro greens and herbs indoors all year long in the most ideal of conditions. It self-regulates, so all you have to do is push a few buttons to ensure it’s at the right PH levels and that it has adequate lighting and water to keep your greens happy.

For the professional chef who works in a commercial kitchen, the Urban Cultivator could be their new best friend. Chefs are able to cook in close proximity to their produce, feeding their guests with fresh, quality greens like arugula, amaranth, nasturtiums, wheatgrass and pea tendrils. They wouldn’t be disappointed by soggy or dried up old veggies or have to wait impatiently for produce to be delivered on time from far away farms. This is truly a zero-mile diet.

I swung by the Urban Cultivator’s Gastown storefront – the Living Produce Aisle – this week to have a look see for myself. Situated downstairs right between Nicli Antica Pizzeria and Vicino Pastaria & Deli, the LPA is a showroom as well as a future green grocers where both restaurateurs and the public can go to purchase fresh microgreens and herbs. Currently, they’ve made a sweet bargain with Bill McCaig, owner of the two restaurants – free rent for commercial cultivators and fresh greens (a commercial cultivator goes for a cool $6000, while a home cultivator has a price point of $2300). Other notable fans of the technology include chefs from the Four Seasons in both Vancouver and Whistler, Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, The Pear Tree, businesses in San Francisco and investors in Mongolia who’ve recently ordered a decent load to install in new housing units (go figure).

While the concept may appear fairly novel, the design for the technology is actually born out of its original use to grow medical marijuana. Tarren Wolfe is one of the founders behind BC Northern Lights, a decade-old business that produces hydroponic units for marijuana cultivation. Essentially, he and his partners figured that they could grow any kind of green with this technology.

Most recently, Tarren, along with partners Davin MacGregor and Myles Ormand, pitched their product to Arlene Dickinson of Venture Communications on an episode of Dragon’s Den. The trio were originally hoping to have $400,000 in exchange for 10% equity and have just settled on $400,000 in marketing services, wherein Arlene would receive a 20% equity stake in the business.

It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for their venture as it continues to grow and capture more big players in the food industry. While interest is mostly local, the concept is beginning to enthuse home owners and big businesses on an international level (even Subway), which perhaps could suggest the eventual revolutionizing of the farm to kitchen to plate dynamic. Maybe with less reliance on farms, it’ll be just kitchens to plates.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: Digging DIY At The Awesome Homesteader’s Emporium On East Hastings

by Claudia Chan | I dropped in on a couple of DIY home improvement workshops this past weekend at the newly launched Homesteader’s Emporium on East Hastings. In case you’re not already familiar with who they are, Homesteader’s is a one-stop shop for home self-sufficiency projects. Whether you’re interested in beekeeping, raising chickens in your backyard or making your own cheese, this is the place to really get your domestic on.

Rick Havlak is the principal behind the store. Having worked in various milieus from education centres, the IT industry and Mountain Equipment Co-op, Rick has always enjoyed keeping up on home projects as hobbies. He’s had to do a lot of his own research on how to roast coffee or make jam and cheese, scavenging all over town to pick up the requisite different pieces for his projects. He then wondered, “Wouldn’t it be easier if everything was in just one place?” Yes, Rick. Yes it would! Hence the conception of the Homesteader’s Emporium.

During my visit, Matt Unger of Mushboo gave a demonstration on how to cultivate your own home-grown oyster mushrooms with spent coffee grounds. With a bamboo case as a vase for a bag of coffee grounds, you just have to water it regularly to produce a decent harvest of gourmet mushrooms (after just 14 days). No need to go looking in the woods or squander at the grocery store. Mushrooms, I learned, can grow in the comfort of your own home.

After the shrooms talk, Adam Scheuer of Water Tiger spoke about the benefits of harvesting rainwater as a healthy, ecological alternative to relying on or heavily taxing the city’s water supply. When the reserves get dry, it’s a not a bad idea to start considering different sources of water, especially when there’s abundant rainfall here on the West Coast. It just takes a little bit of investing in the right equipment.

Rick led the last workshop of the afternoon on composting in small spaces. He showed off some of his worm collections and gave us the run down on vermi-composting and bokashi composting. If you live in an apartment or in place where you don’t have quick access to composting, these are easy and efficient ways of recycling your food scraps.

If you’re so inclined to do a little home0making of your own, rest assured there’ll be more workshops to come at the Homesteader’s Emporium. Visit their website regularly for updates or swing by the store to check out the awesome DIY goods that they have on hand.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

HEADS UP: Young Agrarians Potluck Feast Going Down At UBC Farm Tomorrow Night

by Claudia Chan | Only 8% of farmers in Canada are under 35, but in a city like ours I can’t help but notice a surging interest in urban agriculture among young people. It seems like everybody has his or her name on a waiting list for a plot in a community garden, and that there are more workshops, community groups and resources out there than ever before for people to learn about how to grow their own food.

Young Agrarians is a movement of young farmers that works in partnership with Farm Folk City Folk. They are a community-building project that encourages young people and the public to engage in rethinking the food system. They want us to ask questions like where should food come from, who’s producing it and how should we care for the land. By promoting local food activism through the power of social media and real time networking, they hope to rebuild the agricultural landscape of our country, and they want you to join them in doing so. They do a potluck on a different farm every month, and the next goes down at 6pm tomorrow out at UBC Farm (Thursday July 26th). Make sure you bring a plate of food and your own plate/cutlery.

photo: Ilana Labow, Fresh Roots Urban Farm (Richmond Location)

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

GREENLIGHT: Holly Schmidt & Chef Alex McNaughton Prep For “Savour” In Burnaby

One of the most enjoyable pleasures of the city is the abundance of food that grows all around us. How delightful is it for us to be able to feast on all the tasty things that grow in our own backyard! In the first of a three part-series, The Moveable Feast is featuring an edible event called Savoury this Thursday at the Burnaby Art Gallery in collaboration with the BC Arts Council and the City of Burnaby.

Holly Schmidt is the artist who is spearheading the event as part of a larger project that hosts long table garden dine-outs, workshops, and youth programs. In collaboration with urban forager and underground chef Alexander McNaughton, they hope to gather people over food in a purposeful way – to get them thinking and talking about broader issues around urban agriculture, food production and consumption in a convivial, well decorated space.

Savoury will begin with a walk through the gardens and end with three delicious courses at a long table. To register, call the Burnaby Art Gallery at 604-297-4422. The recommended donation is $15.

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Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.

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