Largest urban orchard opens in Vancouver 0
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (left) and SOLEfoods co-founder Michael Ableman are eager to get fresh fruit growing in North America's largest urban orchard.
As horns honk along Terminal Avenue and a SkyTrain screeches into Main Street-Science World station, Michael Ableman remains unfazed by the bustling city scene and instead focuses on planting the final lemon tree for his orchard.
“Everyone looked at me like I was crazy when the orchard idea came up,” the co-founder of Vancouver’s SOLEfoods Farms said Sunday.
“But I do think we have to be willing to take some risks.”
About 400 saplings rest in elevated plastic boxes at the former site of a gas station on Main and Terminal, making it the largest urban orchard in North America.
The City of Vancouver leased the land to SOLEfoods for a $1 a year and gave the urban farmers a $50,000 grant.
“Mostly everything that’s here, you would not find in a commercial orchard catalogue,” Ableman said.
That means growing produce ranging from French butter pears to subtropical fruits such as persimmons.
Meanwhile, the elevated boxes ensure fruits and herbs aren’t exposed to the land left contaminated by the demolished gas station.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who helped Ableman plant the final lemon tree, called the project “an innovative way to capitalize on climate change” — a reference to farmers witnessing more plants from further south finding the capability to survive on Canada’s West Coast.
He noted in the event the city needs to use the site for any other purposes, the trees are all planted in portable boxes.
But for Ableman, the project is also about proving such a production model is possible in an urban setting.
He predicted within three to five years — “if everything were to work” — each tree on average would produce 100-200 kilograms of fruit, while the orchard would bring in $200,000 to $400,000 gross income annually.