The HUF is a horticultural therapy and social enterprise project in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES). We produce veggies, fruit, flowers and honey on 1/2 acre of donated land (58 Hastings W). Our farmers are locals, who face multiple challenges in life (drug addiction, extreme poverty, mental/physical health issues, etc), that result in barriers to employment, housing, and personal stability.
Our farmers all participate in a training program that prepares them for agricultural work. They learn about horticulture, carpentry, apiculture, financial planning, soil maintenance, and marketing, spatial planning and yield forecasting. They also learn some soft skills: working with others, personal timetable management, anger management, goal-setting, etc.
Some of our produce is sold to restaurants, wholesalers, and at farmers' markets and farm gate sales for cost-recovery purposes; our trained farmers receive honoraria for their work. The rest is donated to individuals or community kitchens. Because of our affiliation with the Portland Hotel Society, our fresh organic produce efficiently finds its way into many meal programs. We also give out recipes and pre-made one-pot meals, so that DTES residents can more easily prepare our food in their homes (which often have limited cooking facilities).
Programs like ours are essential to the DTES' transformation away form poverty, substance abuse, and marginalization. 1) We apply the tenets of horticultural therapy, providing opportunities for residents to nurture plants and control their external environment. 2) We put folks to work, mitigating the "idle hands" phenomenon that plagues our neighbourhood. 3) We infuse the neighbourhood with healthy food, supplanting the starchy pre-packaged, nutrient-devoid stuff that is normally all people can afford. 4) We provide access to green space in the concrete confines of the DTES. A formerly-derelict lot is now a lush summer garden. All we need now are more perennials...
We will use the $1000 to buy blueberries and ornamentals for the garden, and raspberries to line the sidewalk fence (so that passersby may harvest and eat the fruit at will. We would also use the money to construct planter boxes for shrubs. We have contacts in the Parks department that can help us out with landscaping plants, but we would also like to grow shrubs native to this region.
Funded by Vancouver, BC (May 2013)