Yesterday I profiled a bountiful urban garden on the rooftop of Quebec City’s Hôtel du Vieux and asked the question: with the pressure on the Agricultural Land Reserve what does the future hold for food security in Vancouver?  Could Vancouver be doing more with our numerous rooftops regarding urban farming?  Indeed there are some excellent rooftop projects around town already up and running (Fairmont Hotel Waterfront and YWCA immediately come to mind).
This past summer I had an opportunity to tour an extensive urban agriculture program on top of Bosa’s False Creek apartments located on the corner of Main Street and Switchmen in Olympic Village.  The program is sponsored by the Bosa Properties Foundation (more here)
Building resident and program participant Thea Treahy-Geofreda took me on a tour of the operation and provided some background on the projects history:
The Bosa Properties Foundation has committed to supporting our rooftop garden project each year. They supply all the soil, seeds, seedlings, equipment and support (if necessary, through Can You Dig It!). The team of residents maintain and harvest the garden from there.  This specific rooftop garden has been operational for 3 years and we are planning our 4rd season now.  Bosa also supports the efforts of the community garden within their Chinatown building.
The crop yields are substantial and are never wasted, supporting a range of local organizations in Vancouver:
We have 3 designated plots which are donated to Project Chef, a school based cooking program in Vancouver.  They request the crops they need before the growing season starts, and we provide them throughout the summer.  All left-over produce from our bi-weekly harvest are donated to the Vancouver Food Bank. We consistently provided them with 1-3 boxes of mixed vegetables each harvest, all season.

Food waste recycling is done onsite using a continuous flow Vermiculture system (Compost worms) providing nutrient rich worm tea and castings fertilizer for the garden while reducing the need for organic waste collection.  More on their composting system here.

I asked Thea what are the teams biggest challenges and most successful crops:
There are little (if any) challenges with our rooftop garden, as we are protected from strong winds, attract an abundance of sunlight and are protected from most “pests” found at ground level.  We do deal with some aphids and slugs, though nothing like those working on the ground.
Tomatoes and hot peppers have got to be out most successful crops.  The heat and sunlight we get create the perfect environment for these plants. The hardest thing to grow on our rooftop are squash and pumpkin. We quickly gave up on that after year one.
Kinda makes you miss summer doesn’t it?  Thanks to Thea and the Bosa Properties for exposing me to such an exciting urban agriculture initiative.


  1. I think it’s a matter of scale.
    First, green roofs have serious limitations with potentially extensive water damage from membrane failure, but these folks seem to have gotten it right by using containers, hopefully placed on moveable pallets on a deck suspended well above the membrane. The weight of wet soil needs to be factored into the structural engineering calculations, as well as wet snow loads. I’d say eventually they may consider a rooftop greenhouse and efficient lighting and heating for year-round crops.
    As indicated above, rooftop gardens may be most suitable as a useful but nonetheless novelty garden for restaurants or residents of the building. There is no way that rooftops have enough area to feed 2.5 million people, whereas the Lower Mainland ALR could feed a lot more than that when pushed into it by drying-up food imports from California later this century. Today, some firms are using grow-op hydroponic techniques to grow table greens in suburban warehouses in Toronto.
    If someone proposes high-rise farms, then they need to be asked what the per m2 building costs are in Vancouver and compare them to the value of ALR land. It’s night and day.

  2. I used to live in the building above Urban Fare in the Olympic Village, and we had a similar program where gardeners came in and took care of the communal garden … I didn’t need to buy tomatoes or zucchinis at all those years it seemed!

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