Today we went on an urban-farm adventure in our neighbouring city of Burnaby and visited in real life a place that I frequently “visit” online – Urban Digs Farm.
Yesterday I read a news piece about how the ongoing drought in California may drive the price of broccoli up to the $7 a pound mark. Right away I thought of all the beautiful farm land in Burnaby along Marine Way. When I was a kid we would drive along what was then Marine Drive and marvel at the small market farms with the land being worked so intensively. Those lands were and still are rich and fertile and should have been better protected.
Instead, much of that land is now covered with massive churches, temples or big box retailers.
However, it is very cool to see the small pieces of land in that area not covered by churches, temples, or big box retailers still being farmed. And that is what the people behind Urban Digs Farm are doing – intensively farming a small patch of that beautiful, rich and fertile soil along Byrne Road between the Fraser River and Marine Way.
A farm in the city. Pigs, goats, chickens, and ducks all being raised with a mind to the philosophy of permaculture.
Daniel, one of the farm workers who took me on a guided tour of the working farm described the pigs raised on the farm, a Berkshire crossed with another breed, as well suited to the wet and muddy land that the farm is situated on. Their breeding also makes them longer in the stomach meaning more bacon is produced – bacon that is made by the good folks at one of my favourite barbecue joints, Re-Up BBQ.
An interesting point about the pigs though, Daniel says they are basically carbon neutral seeing as they are born on the farm and live their entire lives on the farm doing much of the work that a diesel fuelled tractor would normally be required to do.
After one season of being pastured on a section of field the pigs are able to almost eliminate all the couch grass that is so quick to infiltrate farm fields. They also turn over the soil and eat all the pests and grubs that are found in the soil.
Of course as well as all of the animals that are being raised at Urban Dig Farms, they have a significant sized market garden where they grow all the usual veggies including kale, carrots, beets, squash and a variety of gourds, cucumbers, potatoes and more.
While Urban Digs is a supplier of fresh, local and organic vegetables and meat to a number of local restaurants, they also supply farm produce to the public by opening up the farm gates twice a week – Thursdays from 1 – 6pm and Saturdays from 10 -2pm.
Urban Digs Farm in Burnaby is beautifully chaotic example of how small scale farms can supply nutritious and tasty food into our local homes. Food does not have to be trucked in from California. The folks at Urban Digs Farm are living proof of this.