400-Tree Urban Orchard Blooms in Downtown Vancouver

Photo credit: alasam | Flickr

Photo credit: alasam | Flickr

North America’s largest urban orchard is putting down roots in downtown Vancouver.

Some 400 fruit trees have been planted in a vacant industrial lot on the corner of Main Street and Terminal Avenue, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun.  In three to five years, the trees should yield a bumper crop of exotic fruits – including figs and persimmons – all against a backdrop of rattling SkyTrains, car traffic and rising condo towers.

The project is another initiative from Solefood, which already operates almost five acres of urban farms tucked away on Vancouver streets and empty lots. (One of the largest is next to Rogers Arena, at Pacific Boulevard and Carrall Street.)  Because the land the orchard sits on is contaminated, all trees are being grown in plastic containers.  The area, which would otherwise sit vacant, was leased from the city for the bargain price of $1 per year.

In a unique twist, the orchard will be maintained with the assistance of residents from the Downtown Eastside.  Part of Solefood’s objective is to “empower individuals with limited resources by providing jobs [and] agricultural training,” according to its website. Produce is sold to restaurants and farmers markets, with proceeds used to sustain the initiative and pay workers.

The orchard will showcase a variety of sub-tropical trees rarely seen in Vancouver, including quince, Meyer lemons, Santa Rosa plums and French butter pears.  Specialized covers and strings of lights will keep the warm-weather trees protected during the winter.  At maturity, each tree will yield 200-400 pounds of fresh fruit.

The new orchard was made possible by a $50,000 Greenest City grant from the city of Vancouver, according to the Vancouver Sun.  Interestingly, it’s not the first urban orchard in the area.  Smaller city-run orchards already operate at Slocan, Gaston and Falaise parks in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood.

Would you eat fruit from Vancouver’s urban orchard?  Let us know below. 

For more updates on urban farms in Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.  

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