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Rooftops and Rhubarb – Innovative Urban Development Brings Local Farming One Step Closer To The Table

This is a post from Gideon Jones, a recent addition to the Foodtree team.

Here at Foodtree, we are always asking where our food has come from – if we were to ask Paul Healey that question, he’s hoping to be able to tell us ‘the roof’.

In the downtown East side Vancouver, a newly planned development at 138 East Hastings Street is ready to take the place of the old Pantages theatre which was recently condemned. At first glance the plans appear to be for standard entry-level housing, but land owner and developer Mark Williams has teamed up with former teacher turned farmer, Paul Healey, to add an agricultural twist to the project.

The rooftop of the new ‘Sequel 138’ building will feature eighty-eight 8’x10’ farming gardens. These will be equally split between residents, members of the local community and city chefs – seeking to establish a direct connection with the ingredients they are using in their restaurants.

Sprouts from Hannah Brook Farm

Some of the produce on offer from Paul at the farmers market

Mark Williams was especially keen to address the concerns of the local community who are wary of development projects. These gardens will go alongside art spaces within the building as community spaces. In addition Healey, who already runs successful local organic farms, plans bi-monthly workshops in agricultural and propagation techniques to teach those who’d like to learn how to use their land effectively to feed themselves, or create produce to sell.

Although plans are at an early stage, Paul explained that he hopes in time the local community could manage those gardens supplying local restaurants, on behalf of the chefs who have bought into the project; creating a productive relationship between the urban community and local eateries. With five commercial spaces available in the building beneath the mini-farms, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a café open up beneath the rooftop gardens, with some of the shortest farm-to-table distances around!

‘Sequel 138’ is due for completion around summer 2012, until then you can catch Paul Healey at Vancouver’s winter farmers market every weekend selling fresh vegetables from Hannah Brook Farm.

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