(Courtesy of Oliver Belcher)
Concrete jungle may give way to an urban vegetable patch
by Nicholas Read
Ward Teulon is bringing the country to the city with CityFarmBoy.
Ward Teulon is growing more than just vegetables in four east Vancouver backyards between Fraser and Victoria.
He's growing an idea.
Teulon, a 43-year-old agricultural scientist who grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, is planting what he hopes will be the seeds of a new way of living in the city.
As founder of CityFarmBoy, a network of organic backyard farms where he grows vegetables to sell on the commercial food market, he's promoting a way of life that not only takes advantage of the nutrient-rich soil the Lower Mainland is built on, but also provides a locally grown alternative to modern and usually distant agribusiness.
It's very simple really. He wants to turn your lawn, or at least 500 square feet of it, into a vegetable patch.
"My mission is to get urban agriculture happening because there are more than enough mouths to feed here," Teulon says of newly-christened Metro Vancouver. "And the more the merrier."
He got the idea from studying urban agriculture in Cuba where up to half that country's food supply comes from small city holdings like the ones he works on.
This year, his first in business, with only about 2,200 square feet in production -- including 600 square feet of his own -- he figures he might make $5,000 selling produce at local farmers' markets.
That's why for now, he and his three-year-old son, Samuel, rely on his wife, Jennifer Griffith, and her salary as a lawyer to keep a roof over their heads. But he has already started to cultivate another 1,200-square-foot backyard patch that will add to the haul, and is negotiating with the owner of a fifth backyard about bringing that into production as well.
His aim is to get 15 to 20 backyards -- or at least portions thereof -- producing food under the CityFarmBoy banner. That way he reckons he would have a successful business on his hands that also would provide homeowners throughout the Lower Mainland with a living, growing example of just how productive sustainable city farming can be. Because with a growing season in southwestern B.C. that lasts up to nine months -- from March to November -- the potential is limitless.
"My mission statement is to promote this way of farming as an environmentally positive way to grow food," he says.
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