When I lived in other parts of the city, the story was the same, though with different characters. Mrs. Fung with her Szeyap bitter greens. Auntie Mee Mee with her goji berries. The shy Portuguese couple with the beautiful, enviable figs. On evening walks in the summer, I wouldn’t see a single street or alley without these lush gardens and some retiree tending to them, often with a grandchild helping.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened up the Sun, our daily paper, and read about how Vancouver is catching up with other North American cities experiencing an urban farming “renaissance.”1
Renaissance? These yards have been feeding Vancouverites since before I was born. Curious about what this renaissance might entail, I read on.
The story, one of many on this subject, celebrated gardens that were the result of city-sanctioned efforts, with tech firms and young urbanites looking to consummate a green lifestyle. It was farming by the Brooklyn playbook that has gone viral from city to city — not a made-in-Vancouver approach. One such urban farmer interviewed by Montecristo magazine said that most homeowners’ lawns are about decoration for “leisure value or visual appeal.” He boasted about his “resistance,” “challenging” the idea of what a yard could be if it were farmed. He and others went on to talk about “reconnecting” people with food systems and their neighbours in this grand effort.
Obviously, these new Vancouver farmers hadn’t checked their own city to see if what they were doing was new. Google Street View could have told them. If this was, as they called it, a “resistance,” then my grandfather and thousands of urban farmers like him were original overthrowers of the status quo, one melon at a time.
I once thought journalism was a reliable reflection of reality. Nowadays, I can’t help but view reporting as a reflection of whoever happens to be holding the pen, and they aren’t representing or writing about large parts of the community. Journalists may aspire to gather and report the truth, but what good is that if they don’t interrogate their own blind spots?