Local food security initiatives: systemic limitations in Vancouver, Canada

Alfred Wong, Alan Hallsworth


This paper approaches the topic of urban/community gardening not through the lens of urban theory per se but in light of basic farming realities such as growing season and land availability. Food security comprises availability and affordability. In the context of North American and Western European societies, only food affordability normally merits public discourse. In practice, governments have little or no means to change food affordability, in view of prevailing capitalistic free-market structures. In the current wave of popular exuberance, civic politicians and others have promoted the belief that community gardening could be the pathway to produce affordable food. The formidable obstacles to this pursuit include the availability of (low-cost) land within the highly-densified city limit, insufficient ambient temperature and water supply during the growing season and the contemporary structure of society. Overcoming these fundamental hurdles carries significant negative environmental and economic consequences.

Key words: Cropping conditions, Economics, Food security, Land use, Urban gardening

Full Text:



Agele, S.O., Iremiren, G.O. & Ojeniyi, S.O. (2011). Evapotranspiration, water use efficiency and yield of rainfed and irrigated tomato. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology, 13, 469–476

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2012, April 12). Canada: Grains and Oilseeds Outlook. Retrieved from http://www.agr.gc.ca/pol/mad-dam/pubs/go-co/pdf/go-co_2012-04-12_eng.pdf

Allen, R.G., Pereira, L.S., Raes, D. & Smith, M. (1998). Crop evapotranspiration – Guidelines for computing crop water requirements, FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 56. Rome: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

Anon. (2007). Friedrich Engels in Salford - Part 1. The Salford Star, Issue 6 (Winter). Salford (UK): Mary Burns Publishing.

Anon. (2008, May 23). Price of farmland soars. The Vancouver Sun – Canada. Retrieved from http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=fdcd9c60-d0e-40e9-9a9c-db13cb065a74

Anon. (2012, March 19). Average house prices in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.livingin-canada.com/house-prices-canada.html

Anon. (2013, September 10). Price of Canada’s farmland rising on strong demand, short supply. CBC News – Canada. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/price- of-canada-s-farmland-rising-on-strong-demand-short-supply-1.1700679

Armstrong, K. (2014). Fields of Blood: Religion and the history of violence. Toronto, ON: Alfred A. Knopf.

Atmospheric Science Data Centre – ASDC (2015). Surface meteorology and solar energy. Langley, VA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved from http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov

Barthel, S. & Isendahl, C. (2012). Urban gardens, agriculture, and water management: Sources of resilience for long-term food security in cities. Ecological Economics. DOI:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.06.018.

Boriss, H. & Brunke, H. (2005). Fresh tomato profile. Davis, CA: Agricultural Issues Center, University of California. Revision of original version completed by D. Huntrods (Iowa State University) in January, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/vegetables/fresh-tomatoes-profile/

Brenner, N. (2014). Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Berlin: Jovis

Brenner, N. & Schmid, C. (2015). Towards a new epistemology of the urban? City, 19,151–182

Byker, C., Rose, N. & Serrano, E. (2010). The benefits, strategies and challenges of adults following a local food diet. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development. 1(1), 125-138

Canadian Grain Commission (2011). Quality of western Canadian wheat 2010: No. 1 CWRS - Comparative Bühler laboratory mill flour data - Milling and baking Quality. Retrieved from http://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/wheat-ble/harvest-recolte/2010/hqww10-qrbo10-10-eng.htm

Cardinal, H. (1969). The Unjust Society: The tragedy of Canada’s Indians. Edmonton, AB: M.G. Hurtig Ltd

Catterall, B. (2014). Towards the great transformation: Where/what is culture in ‘Planetary Urbanisation? Towards a new paradigm. City, 18, 368–379

City of Vancouver (2011a). Food Policy: Urban gardens. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/socialplanning/initiatives/foodpolicy/projects/ gardens.htm

City of Vancouver (2011b). Food Policy: Backyard chickens. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/socialplanning/initiatives/foodpolicy/projects/ chickens.htm

City of Vancouver (2012a). Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, Academic Working Group–Summary Report. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/ committees/mayors-task-force-housing-affordability-summary-report.pdf

City of Vancouver (2012b). Final Report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Staff_report_to_Council_re_task_force_report.pdf

City of Vancouver (2014). Operational guidelines for community gardens on city land other than city parks. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/files/cov


City of Vancouver (2015a). Housing and Design and Technical Guidelines. Version 9.6. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/housing-design-and-technical-guidelines.pdf

City of Vancouver (2015b). Zoning and Development Bylaw 3575. Updated to January 1.Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/your-government/zoning-development-bylaw.aspx

City of Vancouver (2015c). Buy compost soil for your garden. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/compost-soil.aspx

CitySpaces Consulting (2009) Vancouver Apartment Condominium Report. Study report prepared for the City of Vancouver. Retrieved from http://vancouver.ca/docs/policy/housing-role-rented-condo-stock.pdf

Colasanti, K.A. & Hamm, M.W. (2010). Assessing the local food supply capacity of Detroit, Michigan. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, 1, 41-58.

Crouch, P. (2011, December 8.). New Agtivist: Edith Floyd is making a Detroit urban farm, empty lot by empty lot. Grist. Retrieved from http://grisy.org/urban-agriculture/

Davis, M. A. & Palumbo, M.G. (2008). The price of residential land in large U.S. cities. Journal of Urban Economics, 63, 352-384.

de Graff, J., Kessler, A. & Nibbering, J.W. (2011). Agriculture and food security in selected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: diversity in trends and opportunities. Food Security, 3, 195-213.

de Ponti, T., Rijk, B. & van Ittersum, M.K. (2012). The crop yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture. Agricultural Systems, 108, 1-9.

DuPuis, E.M. & Goodman, D. (2005). Should we go “home” to eat?: toward a reflexive politics of localism. Journal of Rural Studies, 21, 359-371.

Engels, F. (1845). The condition of the working class in England. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/

Engels, F. (1872). Zur Wohnungsfrage (The Housing Question; English translation). Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/

Environment Canada (2014). Monthly Data Report – Vancouver International Airport. Retrieved from http://climate.weather.gc.ca/climateData/monthlydata_e.html

Fairey, D., Hanson, C., MacInnes, G., McLaren, A.T., Otero, G., Preibisch, K. & Thompson, M. (2008). Cultivating Farmworker Rights: Ending the Exploitation of Immigrant and Migrant Farmworkers in BC. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office, Justicia for Migrant Workers, Progressive Intercultural Community Services, and the BC Federation of Labour.

Feagan, R. (2007). The place of food: Mapping out the ‘local’ in local food systems. Progress in Human Geography. 31, 23-42.

Flour Advisory Bureau (2013). Facts about bread in the UK. Retrieved from http://www.fabflour.co.uk/content/1/31/facts-about-bread-in-the-uk.html

Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO (2014a). Irrigation Water Management: Irrigation water needs. Training Manual No. 3. Part II – Determination of irrigation water needs. Chapter 3 – Crop water needs. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/S2022E/s2022e07.htm

Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO (2014b). Crop Water Information: Tomato. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/NR/water/cropinfo_tomato.html

Fox, M. (2013, October 7). Making $1.50 an hour to pick blueberries. Michigan Radio. Retrieved from http://michiganradio.org/post/making-150-hour-pick-blueberries//stream/0

Friedman, M. (1970, September 13). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. The New York Times Magazine.

Galois, R.M. (1997). Colonial encounters: The worlds of Arthur Wellington Clah, 1885-1881. BC Studies, 115, 105-147.

Government of British Columbia (2014). Minimum wage. Victoria, BC: Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training.

Green, J. (2008). Reclaiming Haisla Ways: remembering oolichan fishing. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 31, 41-60.

Hallsworth, A.G. & Wong, A. (2012). Magnitude of CO2 emission in supplying tomatoes to Portsmouth, England. World Transport and Policy, 18(May 3), 13-24.

Hallsworth, A. & Wong, A. (2015a). Urban gardening realities: a case study of Portsmouth, England. International Journal on Food Systems Dynamics, 6, 1-11.

Hallsworth, A. & Wong, A. (2015b). Tyranny of corporate dominance exemplified by food supply in modern-day Britain. Journal of Law and Governance, 10(4), 25-38.

Hand, M.S. & Martinez, S. (2010). Just what does local mean? Choices, 25 (First Quarter). Milwaukee, WI: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

Hanson, B.R. & May, D.M. (2006). Crop evapotranspiration of processing tomato in the San Joaquin Valley of California, USA. Irrigation Science, 24, 211-221.

Harvey, D. & Chatterjee, L. (1974). Absolute rent and the structuring of space by governmental and financial institutions’. Antipode, 6, 22-36.

Harvey, D. (2003). The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harvey, D. (2008). The right to the City. New Left Review, 53, 23-40.

Hoekstra, G. & McKnight, Z. (2012, August 8). ‘4 years after B.C. tragedy, mushroom farms still lack safety plans’. The Vancouver Sun-Canada. Retrieved from http://www.vancouversun.com/health/years+after+tragedy+mushroom+farms +still+lack+ safety+plans/7055462/story.html

Howell, M. (2013, December 13). Rent resentment. The Vancouver Courier- Canada, p. A5.

Howell, M. (2014, January 27). Alterrus bankruptcy soils garden vision: Clean tech project touted by city folds after less than two years. The Vancouver Courier-Canada. Retrieved from http://www.vancouvercourier.com/news/alterrus-bankruptcy-soils-


Isendahl, C. & Smith, M.E. (2013). Sustainable agrarian urbanism: The low-density cities of the Mayas and Aztecs. Cities, 31, 132–143.

Ivanova, I. & Klein, S. (2015). Working for a living wage – 2015 update. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Jenkins, A., Keeffe, G. & Hall, N. (2015). Planning urban food production into today’s cities. Future of Foods: Journal on Food, Agriculture and Society, 3, 35-47.

Jeswani, S. (2009). How far away is locally produced? The official gateway to Sweden. Retrieved from http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Sustainability/

Jones, M. (2008). Leningrad: State of siege. London: John Murray.

Kloppenburg, A., Niwinski, A., Johnson, E. & Gruetter, R. (1977). Vancouver’s First Century: A city album 1860-1960. Vancouver, BC: J.J. Douglas Ltd.

Kneafsey, M., Dowler, E., Lambie-Mumford, H, Inman, A. & Collier, R. (2012). Consumers and food security: Uncertain or empowered? Journal of Rural Studies. DOI: 10.1016/j.rurstud.2012.05.005

Lambert, A. (2011, May 11). The (mis)measurement of periurbanization. Metropolitics. Translated by E. Rosencrantz. Retrieved from http://www.metropolitiques.eu/The-mis-measurement-of.html

Lev, D.S. (2009). The Transition to Guided Democracy: Indonesian Politics, 1957-1959. Singapore: Equinox Publishing.

Ljungkvist, J., Barthel, S., Finnveden, G. & Sörlin, S. (2010). The urban anthropocene: Lessons for sustainability from the environmental history of Constantinople. In: P.J.J. Sinclair, G. Nordquist, F. Herschend & C. Isendahl (Eds.), The Urban Mind Cultural and Environmental Dynamics (pp. 367-390). Uppsala: Uppsala University.

Maconachie, R., Binns, T. & Tengbe, P. (2012). Urban farming associations, youth and food security in post-war Freetown, Sierra Leone. Cities, 29, 192-200.

Martin, J.H., Leonard, W.H. & Stamp, D.L. (1976). Principles of Field Crop Production (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc.

Masabni, J. (2009). Vegetable gardening in containers, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Bulletin E-545. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University. Retrieved from http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/files/2010/10/E-545_vegetable_gardening_containers.pdf

Masabni, J. (2011). Bell pepper, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Bulletin. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University. Retrieved from http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/files/2011/10/pepper-Bell.pdf

Maxwell, D.G. (1995). Alternative food security strategy: A household analysis of urban agriculture in Kampala. World Development, 23, 1669-1681.

Mayer, M. (2012). The ‘Right to the City’ in urban social movements. In: N. Brenner, M. Mayer & P. Marcuse (Eds.), Cities for People, Not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City (pp. 63-85). New York, NY: Routledge.

McLaren, A.T. & Thompson, M. (2008). Harvest of shame. Vancouver, BC: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

McMillan, A.D. (1988). Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntrye.

McMillan, A.D. & Yellowhorn, E. (2004). First Peoples in Canada (3rd ed.). Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntrye.

Metro Vancouver (2013). 2012 Water consumption: Statistics Report. Burnaby, BC: Water Services Department, Metro Vancouver. Retrieved from www.metrovancouver.org.

Natural Resources Canada (2014). North American Natural Gas Market: 2014-2015 heating season outlook. Retrieved from http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sources/natural- gas/16781

Nobel, P.S. (1983). Biophysical Plant Physiology and Ecology. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Onken, K.A. & Bernard, J.C. (2010). Catching the ‘local’ bug: A look at State agricultural marketing programs. Choices, 25 (First Quarter). Milwaukee, WI: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

Pablo, C. (2014, June 19-26). Housing co-ops face crunch. The Georgia Straight – Canada, p. 15.

Pacific Field Corn Association (2014). Growing Degree Days and Evapotranspiration Calculators. Agassiz, BC: Pacific Field Corn Association. Rerieved from www.farmwest.com

Peck, J. & Theodore, N. (2015). Fast Policy: Experimental Statecraft at the Thresholds of Neoliberalism. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Perry, A. (2001). On the edge of Empire: Gender, race, and the making of British Columbia, 1849-1871. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Pinstrup-Andersen, P. (2009). Food security: Definition and measurement. Food Security, 1, 5-7.

Reid, A. (2011). Leningrad: Tragedy of a city under siege, 1941-44. Toronto, ON: Allan Lane Canada.

Robinson, M.P. (1996). Sea Otter Chiefs. Calgary, AB: Bayeux Arts Incorporated.

Roebuck, C. (1966). The World of Ancient Times (pp. 19-27). New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Rudolf, J.C. (2010, November 18). Reimaging Detroit as ‘grow town’. The New York Times – USA.

Sacks, H. L. (2010). Why aren’t there any turkeys at the Danville Turkey Festival? Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, 1(1), 7-14.

Smith, A. & MacKinnon, J. B. (2007). The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Toronto, ON: Random House.

Soja, E. (2000). Postmetropolis. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Soja, E. & Kanai, J. (2014). The Urbanization of the World. In: N. Brenner (Ed.), Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization (pp. 142-159). Berlin: Jovis.

Statistics Canada (2008). Canadian demographics at a glance – 2008. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-003-x/91-003-x2007001-eng.htm

Statistics Canada (2015). 2011 Census of Population. Retrieved from http://www12.statcan.ca

St. Denis, J. & Greer, D. (2015, May 19). City of Vancouver still paying for failed urban farm. The Vancouver Courier-Canada. Retrieved from http://www.vancouvercourier.com/news/city-of-vancouver-still-paying-for-failed-urban-farm-1.193922

Steinberg, D.J. (1971). In Search of Southeast Asia – A modern history. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers.

Strange, M.L., Schrader, W.L. & Hartz, T.K. (2000). Fresh-market tomato production in California. Publication 8017. Davis, CA: Vegetable Research and Information Center, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.

Wallace, S. (2015, May 22). Exposing the crisis of urban housing in Toronto: Whathappens when global capital becomes a slumlord. Paper presented at “Contesting Canada” Conference, Trent University, Trent, Ontario, Canada.

Wong, A. (2010, September 7). Food miles and localized vegetable production in the North Baltic Region. Proc. International Conference on Agricultural Engineering – AgEng 2010, Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Wong, A. & Hallsworth, A. (2012). Farm-to-fork: a revision of the classical Food Miles concept. International Journal on Food System Dynamics, 3, 74-81.

Wong, A. & Gomes, R. (2012). Societal and economic elements of trafficking in human beings into the European Union. Etnoantropološki problemi, 7, 831-852.

Wong, A. & Hallsworth, A. (2013). Corporate subversion of social-justice initiatives on food and agriculture. Journal of Administration and Governance, 8(1), 1-10.

Wong, A. & Ribero, C. (2013). New Agriculture: an alternative means to provide enduring employment and food security for Martinique. Etudes Caribeénnes, No. 26, Article 6710. Retrieved from http://etudescaribeennes.revues.org/6710

Wong, A. & Hallsworth (2016). Local food supply and community gardening: a case study of Vancouver, Canada. Forthcoming.

Woodham-Smith, C. (1962). The Great Hunger. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Yang, L., Qu, H., Zhang, Y. & Li, F. (2012). Effects of partial root-zone irrigation on physiology, fruit yield and quality and water use efficiency of tomato under different calcium levels. Agricultural Water Management, 104, 89-94.

Zbeetnoff, D.M. & McTavish, R.B. (2011). Review of regulated minimum piece rates for agricultural hand harvesters in BC. Final report prepared for the BC Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government, Victoria (BC), Canada.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Comments on this article

View all comments



 Google Scholar H5 index 3 

Sponsoring Organisations

Logo Agrarekologie Uni Kassel