Urban agriculture will be the focus of this year's Stone Soup Festival, an annual celebration of culinary diversity and sustainability.
"Urban agriculture is becoming much more prominent in Vancouver as well as other cities," says Katherine Polgrain, coordinator for the festival, which runs Saturday at Britannia Community Centre. "People are using it as an easy way to pursue a healthy and local diet through planting vegetables in their front lawns or using community gardens."
The festival, which began in 1995, will feature six workshops ranging in topic from gardening tips to economic sustainability within the urban food movement. Speakers include Peter Ladner, former city councillor and author of The Urban Food Movement: Changing the Way we Feed Cities. Fifteen community groups from Vancouver, such as the East End Food Co-op and Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, will have a presence at the festival.
Ian Marcuse, food coordinator at Britannia Community Services, said the Stone Soup Festival preceded the first farmers market in Vancouver, but has since expanded to incorporate more education on food security.
"We try to make it a very celebratory event," Marcuse said. "Food security can be very depressing when you look at how many people have [health] problems or can't afford to eat every day, but the Stone Soup Festival is a way to celebrate food and connect it to the community."
Local urban food advocates have two reasons to celebrate this year, as city council approved the new Vancouver food strategy in January, which focuses on both highlighting food security and making community gardens available to more residents. Van Tech secondary school opened a school garden in March as part of a collaboration between the Vancouver School Board and Fresh Roots, a local not-for-profit urban farming group. Although the school garden is one of the first in Canada, Marcuse called it "a precedent-setting project."
"There are a lot of young people looking into farming as a viable enterprise," Marcuse said, "but no one really knows how much food a city can grow - can a city become self-sufficient? Probably not, but we can put a big dent on it through urban agriculture projects like these."
Attendees will be able to see and taste first-hand the achievements of local urban farms at the event's farmers market, which has remained a staple of the festival since its inception.
The Stone Soup festival will also feature live music, art tables, hands-on gardening for children, tea leaf reading and free soup.
The festival is May 11, from noon to 5 p.m. at Britannia Community Centre, 1661 Napier St at Commercial Drive.
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