MOBY - An Inner City Community Garden Project

MOBY – An Inner City Community Garden Project

hi welcome to peak moments at Jenaya Donaldson and I'm underneath the sky train tracks in Vancouver Canada with Jason O'Brien who created some magic from this very place welcome thank you're with us hi Dan nice to be here what is Moby first of all Moby is an acronym that was started at the very first meeting of my neighbors about three years ago when we're just putting together a nonprofit society it stands for my own backyard it's a term that opposes the term NIMBY and NIMBYism displacing elements into other communities we live in a very specific spot in East Vancouver on Commercial Drive behind Broadway sky train station that is an epicenter for crystal meth trafficking and has been for a number of years we really wanted to take abandoned space and transform it into a public amenity allowing our neighbors to come together meet one another to alleviate the impact in the sky train and to have a good time on days like today so what happened did what was here what was in this space this spot right here was home full-size dumpster okay garbage dumpster for about 20 years Wow I've lived next door to this property for about seven years in the first few years every day I'd look out my kitchen window and see this dumpster overflowing onto this beautiful big field and just completely polluting our neighborhood the wind the crows the dumpster divers they'd be garbage scattered everywhere so I got a petition together went walk door-to-door talk to all my neighbors and everyone agreed it'd be a good idea if we removed the dumpster the Transit Authority removed the dumpster the next week and we should go that was the beginning it was the same week that we actually put up this sign while walking around my neighborhood everyone was talking about like hey if you're gonna remove the dumpster let's actually do something with the property it's okay we all talked and agreed that we should either put a community garden or playgrounds in the space how did that come to be Oh as it turns out a week after the dumpster was removed there was an announcement that the City of Vancouver was holding a community meeting to find a place to use funds from TransLink the local Transit Authority there's the SkyTrain here an amenity fund for public uses to alleviate the impact of the sky tram so based on the perspectives of my neighbors I wrote a proposal and it was accepted so we have just over $200,000 to create a community garden a playground in a green space walkway $200,000 I mean you get to work with money here we have tangible tangible elements to work with and we're gonna try and do it right the first time and to not stop the concept behind our organization is that we want this to be the first community garden we want to do more in Vancouver and then educate other people with the impact of what community gardens and the benefits of community gardens to be in their neighborhoods so after moving the dumpster what was the first step in transforming this space while we brought in 22 loads 22 fold dump truck loads of fill into the garden space okay so you had a parking lot here right see so so did you create this space with that you bought the land he bought some filling on the groundbreaking event we actually removed 1,200 square feet of parking lot and had city councilors and park board representatives help us carry the parking lot over to build a retaining wall that we needed to level the garden space and bring up the level about two feet I love it groundbreaking you did or true ground breaking so you broke the asphalt yeah we're removing Park park spaces and allowing more spots for gardens and for public transportation let's go from here and take a look at what you did next so once you broke ground and move the asphalt what next we brought in about twenty two dump truck loads of fill to bring it bring up the property level a really interesting thing happened though we were the original board and I were discussing how we're gonna level the property just wanted to have better sight lines for the playground that we're gonna have across the street and we were gonna bring in a bobcat but the people that came to volunteer almost demanded that we don't bring in a bobcat and that we hand level twenty two loads of fill of rocky stony fill Wow until this property level was brought up about two feet now that took us about a month a month of hard weekends at least two dozen people at a time working with shovels but you had people working together it was amazing mucho they chose not a machine one machine you could in a day or something playing together working together I think people really wanted an excuse to be with one another like there are so many people meeting and so many connections made and so many amazing conversations had on this property while everyone was breaking was back to and literally breaking shovels that uh yeah it was a very magical moment we really bonded at that point what you do is you build community hard work hard work which most people the myth is the people in our culture don't want to do that we actually provided a space for people to build their own community I like our original board we're very weird very careful to invite everyone everyone has an equal say everyone has a genuine perspective into this project and anybody that wants to show up is that right everybody gets an invitation Wow Wow it's the it's one of the best parts of both what we're doing here is that we've made so many friends and this has actually become a safe place in our neighborhood haha a place where people respect I can see that I mean it's not messed up it's not for feeding I mean it's it's going to be a place in contrast to what your meth folks are using right so changing the neighborhood yeah they get the invitation too and there's actually there's a lot of respect over the fence they understand this is a clean zone this is a sober zone we have a horticultural therapy program with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center on the block and they actually come and they learn to nourish and to grow food and to provide themselves instead of taking that energy from other places in life they're giving energy it's a metaphor to their own recovery so after you got the land in you guys you got all of it leveled yeah what next Oh we built a cedar split rail fence we chose see if it's gonna last a long time and we went with the design of giant honey combs so is agonal boxes right raised beds yeah that are honey combs giant hexagons just the metaphor of the Beehive the community something a little bit aesthetically different than the verticals and horizontals that we see inside that all over the place in our city scapes and so on it's really a nice change that's nice adds a nice element raised garden beds help with the drainage and there's more warmth in then you had to go about filling them right I mean start with a would you built you had did the community build all of these boxes there are 40 75 square foot hexagons that took I think it took us two days it took us one weekend to build all of them really yeah we had we had probably 60 people come out over one weekend with hammers we had a big hammering party and everyone just like got it done carried it over the fence put them in place got our irrigation lines set in it was gonna be hooked up early next week by the City of Vancouver so we're gonna have ups boats four of every six garden beds actually there's any questions how have you wanted it now this was let's go back in time we're in August when when when did the boxes come in boxes came in in May okay this is really recent May we're we're a boat and month behind in a growing season but we I believe it was the end of May that we got our first garden planted so let me ask you this it took you had some hurdles to go through we had about three years of red tape dealing with trying to find a relationship between the local Transit Authority who owns two-thirds of this property and the City of Vancouver who owns one-third of the property they needed to get a lease agreement the city that needed to create a license agreement with our nonprofit society that that took about two years in itself and the last half a year is just dotting the is and crossing the t's but it's it's been a really a real educational process working with the banker Food Policy Council social planning city planning engineering but we're trying to find out the contact people in all these different different places different factions within the municipal government structure so we can pass on this information to other people and other communities who want to build community gardens so one of the things you get to learn in that way is how to make that easier how can they you know administrative people make it easier for these projects to happen we hope that's the point of this project we're the first people working directly with the City of Vancouver in hopes of defining policy around community gardening for the City of Vancouver so hopefully we can establish this one and help someone else establish another one with the information that we've learned well you know pioneers always do have a harness road there's nobody's been there before there are no no trails so there are other community gardens that we've relied on for information to a certain point and yeah I think what we're learning most is the more that we communicate with one another within the garden structure itself between community gardens between the city and ourselves once we have a cohesive dialogue we can do anything once people understand that they have immense power when they collectively agree on a certain direction to travel in policymakers will respect the perspectives of the voters within Democratic Society this is where we live and we need to take advantage of this especially the projects that make sense to everybody sure I mean this is a win on multiple levels it beautifies this place it brings people together get some folks off the streets and off drugs it gets people feeling probably more secure in your neighborhood we're reducing crime compared to last summer the crime rate for property theft is gone right down just because probably because of the added security that this space provides at the doorway to our community we're in a very busy intersection and yet and yet there are people here so there's probably people here in a movi space a lot that creates the opposite of neglect you know present it's the stewardship of the land that protects the land at the positive energy bubble and it's addictive I mean people walk by and they look in and they smile and they wave I noticed laughs I noticed that we were we just didn't arrived and there was a lovely little Asian couple that you know little older they were walking by and a little man had a smile on his face like he was just so happy to see the young people and you know the garden growing I you know I could just feel that I was given Italian delicacy cooking tips yesterday for the flowers on my squash buy some little old lady that was walking down the street and she just felt so joyous had just been able to give me this information of this vegetable that I have and she was just sharing this heritage with me is it was really beautiful I'm because I'm a very new gardener I just started gardening this year and it's it's amazing the type of connections that we're able to create through food and through knowledge about health and sustainable elements like food security that's something that matters to everybody everybody everybody it's one of its one of the needs you know food shelter clothing but food is high on the priority list obviously we can manage without something which we can't manage without food and healthy food there's a difference like there's a food security council our food policy council Vancouver that deals with food security issues and just even the nutrition level of the food that we're we have access to in large supermarkets you know it's being depleted through large scale growing operations and you know if if Vancouver this is a statistic that I learned last year if there is an emergency in Vancouver a natural disaster Vancouver has two days of food left and a lot of people that have no knowledge about how to produce their own food how to sustain their own lives in that way and this is it's an easy way to show that type of information let's see what's next huh fantastic well you know what I notice is you've got music blaring coming out of the speakers you know just just energized the whole place it's a motivator I mean I can feel the people just everybody's just in rhythm together right so we have a we have a big sign on the proper st. garden party every weekend we have music we have people there you go this group of people looks like the best fun of anywhere we've got him you've got a clay party going back here everyone's buried in the trough we're a reconstituting play for the table set we've actually just been given a large donation from a Potter he gave us about two tons of clay that he's not using anymore so that we can build a Cobb shed but it's a little bit dry so we have a trough and we're getting it wet and people feel like it's a good idea if they break it up and mash it and stopping it right now we were going to last it overnight but they won't do it right now I'm gonna be hopping in there picking off my shoes we gotta go over here where people are doing this squishing it with their toes making the car mashing up the cob they're blending the cob which is sand straw clay and a little bit of water and mashing it up into the nice-sized lobes that we're going to be putting on top of the granite foundation and actually building the walls so copy your head strong right that's trough the straw axes rebar but it intertwines in every single direction so it out please just really try it really strong yeah it goes fast weak Adobe was used with I think it's uses darling in the Middle East stuff like that so we have access to clay I could live in British Columbia's a lot of clay everywhere earthen architecture is one of the elements that we'd really like to its encouraged within the urban landscape think about it it means that anybody can build its fact is that democracy is back to the community you don't have to be an architect it's true well I don't know did you have to get building codes approved technically we're staying under 100 square feet so we don't need to get we don't need to access the building code yes we just under under the wire on that one but up you know we've allowed the site to design the sheds shape itself it's going to be wheelchair accessible with enough room to store all other tools and wheelbarrows so we're sitting here on this granite foundation for your comp chef and I want to ask you about everyone that's part of the project except for myself is a volunteer is the project coordinator I have the honor of working about twenty eight hours a day it's not that bad at the first initial push was a lot of energy but now we have such a great body of people engage it's just keeping people in tracking gathering people at the appropriate times with the appropriate energy to keep it sustained keep the momentum going nice job it's really nice it's cool we we're an organization that's thinking outside of our own box right now if our box is this property we're also thinking in other places and other communities and we would like to have more staff available we would like to be a successful nonprofit society we'd like to be a household name not only in Vancouver but in other municipalities this baby just grow just like reach out to other cities and just share and maybe influence or inspire other people take on something like this you're obviously having a good time personally you have a good I've met some of the most amazing people I've ever met in my life people the type of people that project like this draw in so genuine in spirit and so giving and sharing and so authentic with the way they relate to one another that it's it's really difficult for me to think of this as a job but they're more a lifestyle sorts and it's really nice to know that I'm in a situation that I'm able to give them I'm able to take a collective energy and you can put more energy into it than you would if it just volunteer and you have to split your time that's true and that's it's it's an element that that has come up in conversations with other nonprofits where they've they've almost used it as a badge of accomplishment that they've done it all with volunteer hours and an energy but then you see how much how texts people are at the end of a project and it's like you know that we can influence policymakers or people that have access to financial backing for projects like this that if you get the right structure in place to create a project in an efficient and efficient capacity yeah I believe more projects like this would take place thanks to me is awfully good use of municipal funds a personal funds to be building community this level and health at this level and cleaning bath the parts of the city that we've neglected missed away sense those elements of the city that drug folks are probably telling us like disease in the body there places the neglected need energy you're doing it and that's just it and it's this this neighborhood needs energy and here it is and it's working I think that's the best part about all of our endeavors for the last few years now in the last five months since we started building everyone that lives around here the one that comes and visits here and one that compares it to the way that it was five years ago realizes that it's working city councilors are realizing that it's working yes me me mobilize everywhere now what I want to do is I want to go over there with the youngsters and make some card Shelbys after the cob is made we'll bring it back onto this granite wall that is actually recycled from one of our neighbors a gentleman 50 years ago was working for the City of Vancouver as appropriately as that sounds and he actually laid the dynamite charges to blast this granite out of the game he used it for a retaining wall in front of his home for the last 50 years and he was moving there demolishing his house and if he said that he would like to keep the stones in that average the neighbors coming back adding to the foundation of our project shall we okay am I gonna have to pick you up I'm gonna pick you up oh all right so we want me to do you're gonna pick it up and then put it over like this yes you can walk you can walk across yeah yeah you got to help us mash it too going out with your mom more fun this music this way oh that's the good party all right so we're gonna be doing this but the next couple of months really yeah yep it just put layers on it and he's building on top yeah we'll start with probably build a foot at a time and just ring-ring the cob shed and keep going up till we hit about eight or nine feet put a roof on it we can do the roof I'm gonna plant stuff on it Oh in a green roof oh I missed this this is so good so I think we're gonna need a little bit more straw so you just do if I feel how much how much have everything to put together yeah you could feel like you should be a little bit more it's a little bit more binding uh-huh so we have a that's what's gonna be the integrity they actually tested cob at UBC last year they built a scale model building and it lasts if it passed up to 12.5 on the Richter scale for earthquake proof there's a rebar do in concrete I the cob outlasted it the cob was amazing they said that it was better than most building foundations that they've they pass for Building Code Vancouver and we're on a fault line so it's good to know this I can see it we were California houses the material that's easily available you need to bunch your neighbors and friends that's a good music that's some good music okay get a dance on now we need to roll it and tada so now when we're finished I get to show you what's giving an example of what we're gonna do with this the reason why it's called Cobb is not because it's made from corn but it's because you want to form this into a cobble size shape what we're going to be doing with this it's walking these over to the Cobb shed right on top of the granite wall we're gonna be putting the Cobb we're gonna be starting about what a foot thick and then tapering ourselves up okay to about eight or nine feet and keeping to the shape of it are you gonna do cops this way pretty much yeah we just fill in the spaces and try and get an equal layer and hide it down at the end of padding it down we poke holes in it so the next layer that we put on hey just like everyone on your community I have a hand is your wonderful project thank you very much thank you Jason so you're watching peak moment community responses for a changing energy future and we are having a ball and Moe be in Vancouver I'm janae Donaldson join us next time so after we finished with the community garden right across the street we're going to be coming into this piece of property which is pretty much identical to how the property looked before we started the garden and we're going to be building a children's playground using these large rock elements on the other side for climbing apparatus it's gonna be nice nice we learned it to be in the natural world here even though they're in a city world with concrete to just have something from the bigger nature that's great and you just continue it on and take your fun to the next slide and the next law that's what is next and possibly go all the way down the SkyTrain line

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10 thoughts on “MOBY – An Inner City Community Garden Project

  1. Terry, it's definitely on my list when we travel again to Vancouver. We've done updated shows on several programs we originally taped in 2006, and it's fun for us and viewers to see the changes. After all, projects are living things, too! ~Janaia

  2. I'm pleased to report that I was contacted in January 2013 by the garden's current director who wrote, "The garden is still going, and the playground has been built and a subsequent greenspace along the same strip until it reaches busy 12th Avenue. We have been honouring the Larry Young Playground and Local Heroes Pathway each year with a street party and a plaque being placed in the greenspace with the name of a local hero"

  3. @Norm231
    Norm you are correct $93,000 did go
    towards the project ( not all of it has
    been spent) But more than 40 people
    enjoy it. I live just down the street and
    looking at a garden instead of an empty
    garbage fill lot.

  4. @Norm231 Sounds like you didn't list to the conversation. They converted an unused space, went through government channels, and built community.

  5. That's the fun–cob is for everybody, for the people: degrees not needed. Your little boy having fun, along with the other children, made our taping visit so special.

  6. this is great!
    I had so much fun cobbing last summer.
    BTW, that's my little boy running around in the background. Only 3yrs old, and he's becoming a cob engineer.

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