Go Green: Fresh Roots Urban Farm

Noa Glow | April 2012

Ask Ilana Labow what she does for a living and she’ll tell you she’s a farmer. In fact, Labow, along with her partner, Gray Oron, are the co-founders of Fresh Roots Urban Farm (freshrootsurbancsa.wordpress.com)—an organization that creates model urban farms in spaces throughout Metro Vancouver.

It’s true: using backyards and schoolyards, Fresh Roots encourages “future farmers” (i.e., city folk) to “sow the seeds of a sustainable urban food system.”

“In a nutshell, we use urban land to nourish Vancouver residents,” says Labow, pointing to projects in East Vancouver, where Fresh Roots grows delicious baby greens, squash, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, herbs, edible flowers and more. “Joining our community-supported agriculture program [CSA] or buying from us at a neighbourhood pocket market means that you eat food grown just blocks away from your table.”

Through CSAs, ‘eaters’ buy in at the start of the season and receive a weekly backyard-grown box of veggies for the next five or so months. “Members of our CSAs receive the best of locally available produce and get a feel for what the growing season is like here in Vancouver,” she explains, adding that our city’s mild climate means produce can actually be grown year-round.

And that’s just the point. According to Labow, Fresh Roots doesn’t just aim to provide people with locally grown food—rather, it hopes to educate urbanites young and old alike on how they, too, can reclaim the soil and become farmers, even when they live in the heart of the city.

“A lot of our focus right now is on the schools, because once children learn how to grow food themselves, they run home and tell their parents, too,” she says. “You’d be surprised how much the kids enjoy it—I never thought I’d see eight-year-old boys arm-wrestling over broccoli!”