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Urban veggie market proposed for the low-income

 Christopher Pollon, 24 hours

The Sole Food funding campaign is trying to reach $100,000 by July 1.
(Christopher Pollon/ 24 hours)

The Sole Food funding campaign is trying to reach $100,000 by July 1. (Christopher Pollon/ 24 hours)

A Vancouver social enterprise transforming vacant land into urban farms has launched a crowd-funding campaign to expand its future operations, including Vancouver's first pay-what-you-can organic produce stand in east Vancouver.

"This has not been tried in Vancouver before," says Michael Ableman, co-founder of Sole Food Street Farms, a non-profit that employs 25 at-risk Downtown Eastside residents to grow produce at four urban farm sites.

"This is a very real targeted attempt to offer some of the best quality fruits and vegetables to those who are not able to afford them."

The Sole Food funding campaign on IndieGoGo, which started May 13, has raised more than $32,000, with a target of hitting $100,000 by July 1.

They will be able to keep any amount of money raised, even if the target is not reached.

The group sets up dense urban gardens using planters on vacant paved-over lots and land otherwise unsuitable for growing food such as former gas stations with contaminated soil.

The produce they grow is sold to markets, about 40 local restaurants and families who buy weekly vegetable baskets throughout the growing season.

Ableman says the pricing experiment will be offered at the Main and Terminal site only — where they plan to use a refurbished shipping container to sell produce. Prices will be posted for all produce on offer, but customers will pay what they can afford to pay.

He hopes patrons choosing to pay full price will help offset the cost of those who do not.

If they raise the full $100,000, Sole Food will begin work immediately to expand its farm stands for the summer of 2014, according to their crowd-funding page.  

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