'Yummy Yards' bloom with food around the city

Group feeds 15 members with $25 a week shares of veggies

Earlier this year, the boulevard on the northeast corner of the intersection at West 41st Avenue at Blenheim was a chafer beetle-decimated site. Now it bursts with the beauty of red-stemmed kale, purple balls of kohlrabi and green bouquets of Brussels sprouts.

It's a garden split between two urban farms, one of which, Yummy Yards, was co-founded in November by Emi Do. The eastern portion of the Blenheim location is its newest plot.

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The 27-year-old Do, who is concerned about urban food systems, started volunteering at Southlands Heritage Farm on Balaclava at West 51st Avenue last year.

The son of the family that runs the farm asked Do and her roommate, Kate Hardman, to take over its community supported agriculture program. Members of the program pay farmers at the start of the growing season for a weekly pick-up of fresh produce and recipes to inspire new ways of cooking particularly plentiful vegetables including zucchini and kale.

Do soon had area landowners who were struggling to keep up with their yards offering their land to her cause. "They love the idea of local food production," she said.

Yummy Yards now includes the Southlands Heritage Farm and eight other properties mostly in Dunbar and Southlands along with two in Strathcona, for a total of a quarter acre of land.

Those who've given over patches of grass to Yummy Yards can harvest whatever they want for personal use. Those home owners also buy Yummy Yards's produce at the Sunday Southlands Farm market.

Hardman, initially the brawn behind Yummy Yards, subsequently broke her back and returned to her native Australia, so Mark Seiling joined Do's venture in July.

Seiling, 29, had completed an internship on an organic farm in Ontario after becoming discouraged with the way food was used at restaurants where he worked. In the spring, he started volunteering with Julia Smith of the Dog Gone Farm, the urban farm that uses the western portion of the boulevard garden at 41st Avenue and Blenheim that's bordered with potatoes planted in tires. Dog Gone Farm also cultivates an acre and a half of land in Vancouver and Richmond.

Do and Seiling sell extra bounty at small farmers markets around the city, transporting vegetables, herbs and greens by bike.

The pair typically toil six to 14 hours a day, six days a week. Do said she "barely" earns enough money to pay rent, but they eat "really well."

"It doesn't make sense for salad greens and tender greens to be refrigerated and shipped from the valley when we can be growing it in the city. That's where urban farmers can play a role in food production," Do said. "I don't think it makes sense for us to grow long season crops like grains and potatoes and things that people can grow really well out in the valley."

Yummy Yards feeds 15 members with its $25 a week shares of veggies and three with its newer $15 a week greens stream. It has opened greens "shares" to 12 more members until Oct. 25. "I just got bees," Seiling added. "I've got two hives so we've probably got close to 20,000 livestock."

Do calls this Yummy Yards's "learning year." Next year, they plan to expand and sell honey.

crossi@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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