Asked why I farm, I like to say so I can eat well and feed my family and community, so I’ll have stories to tell, and so I can keep my sanity. But I also farm for the simple beauty of it. We tend to think of farms as utilitarian food factories, but whether rural or urban, farms can be places of incredible beauty. Herbs planted as an understory below fruiting trees are incredibly productive. They have provided a diverse orchard ecosystem, but they also fulfill a powerful aesthetic role.

In peak summer when you pass through the orchard gate from the corner of Main and Terminal out of the noise, away from the traffic and exhaust and constant assault of urban hum, you can walk down the rows of cherry, plum, quince, apple, pear, and persimmon canopied overhead and witness the display of flowering chives and sage and oregano and mint you cannot help but be transformed. Harvest a few leaves, crush them and inhale their essence; the experience overwhelms your senses.

Figs and quince and lemons were the first to bear fruit, but now plums and apples and pears and cherries have followed. To stand and eat from these trees, on what was only a few years ago a contaminated and abandoned piece of the urban wilderness, is amazing.

It is a productive place, this oasis of fruit, flower, and herb, but it is also a refuge, a place to rest your eyes from hardscape grey and black to restful green, someplace to find shade from the heat of the city, and to sample a leaf of mint, a yellow plum, or an apple or pear.

coverlarge-3Excerpted from Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier” by Michael Ableman

Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia―one of the worst urban slums in North America―who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood. It is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing others as a way to heal our world and ourselves.

Michael Ableman is a farmer, author, photographer and urban and local food systems advocate. Michael has been farming organically since the 1970′s and is considered one of the pioneers of the organic farming and urban agriculture movements. Ableman is a frequent lecturer to audiences all over the world, and the winner of numerous awards for his work.