North Vancouver's Loutet urban farm growing strong

Five years on, UBC pilot project a model of sustainability

For five years, vegetables and public interest in urban farming have grown steadily at Loutet Park.

And that farm-to-table community connection will continue for at least another half-decade.

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On Nov. 2, City of North Vancouver council unanimously voted in favour of extending the farm’s licence-to-use agreement for another five years.

Loutet Urban Farm was originally a pilot project conceived by UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture with a vision of creating a “working and productive urban farm fully accessible to the community set in a public open space.”

Since the farm’s inception in 2011, it has been operated by the Edible Garden Project.

“(The farm) continues to cultivate that engagement and excitement with the community and grows that every year,” said Emily Jubenvill, Edible Garden Project manager.

As noted in a report from staff, the farm has quickly developed roots in the community, offering everything from volunteer opportunities for local green thumbs and outreach programs in local schools, to hosting market days and farm-to-feast fundraising dinners on the farm.

This year’s pumpkin patch attracted around 1,800 Halloween revellers.

Since the farm started, volunteer participation and production at the farm has grown exponentially and the community has taken a real sense of ownership of the farm, Jubenvill noted.

“People feel really connected when they are there,” she said. “It feels like a hub and really welcoming.”

Loutet’s first season as a fully functioning vegetable farm didn’t yield a bumper crop, so it only posted $3,000 in revenues. Revenues have risen steadily each year and 2015’s $52,500 in revenues will see it break even.

Longer range, with “greater efficiencies and diversification of crops” the farm will continue to reach financial goals set by the Edible Garden Project, noted the report to council.  
In recent years the farm has expanded operations, adding a veggie cleaning and processing area, an apiary, and compost and raspberry beds, as well as expanding its greenhouse. Most recently, the farm added a utility cooler that will allow staff and volunteers to store more produce more effectively.

“It will last longer and be of higher quality,” said Jubenvill.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto is a customer and big supporter of the farm.

“Loutet (farm) has been a really positive story in the city,” he said.  

“People in the neighbourhood have embraced it as their own, which is wonderful because they are supporting it and it’s just become a great success story for locally grown and sold produce.”

Mussatto noted, “people like the fact that they have a little farm in their community and they can go down and get fresh produce picked that day and have it that evening. They can walk over and do it or ride their bikes, and so it’s been quite popular.”

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