The Purple Thistle Food Forest, a 2-year-old youth collective permaculture garden in East Vancouver, has been illegally destroyed by neighbouring building owner David Hollands. The food forest is predominantly located on city land, with a small section on Hollands property. In the fall, Hollands demanded that the young gardeners evict his property by November 1st. The gardeners complied, removing approximately a dozen trees from along the wall of his building, and followed up by sending him a confirmation email and also asking that he respect the rest of the food forest, located on city property, and allow it to grow in peace.
Last week Purple Thistle gardeners visited the site and found the entire food forest destroyed, with irrigation chopped up, all the plants removed, and trees uprooted and left in buckets. All this without notification. They know this to be the actions of Hollands, as several weeks prior they intercepted a work crew employed by him who had been tasked to clear the entire site, which is not on his property.
The site that the food forest is on was originally used as an illegal dumping ground. In 2010, the young gardeners pulled out 250kg of garbage, conducted soil tests to check for contamination, brought in organic matter and compost, and planted over 50 fruit trees, plus medicinal and edible plants. The young gardeners were also working to restore a small wetland on the site. The food forest has served as an educational lab and a community hub, and has been home to several youth garden and beekeeping programs for children as young as 9 years old, all in the heart of an industrial wasteland.
Heartbroken but not defeated, the young gardeners will be seeking justice. “Learning to grow food collectively at the Food Forest has taught us many lessons that go beyond urban agricultural practices. We’ve learned what it means to work together, work with nature and work within a community. We truly believed that if we could grow food next to the train tracks in this industrial wasteland, folks could learn to clean up the land and grow food anywhere.” That was “the goal”, says Kelsey Corbett, youth garden coordinator for the Purple Thistle. ”And it is really interesting, as a young person, to recognize that the biggest barriers we have faced this year have been the attacks to our gardens from big business owners. We complied with Hollands requests and it’s really disheartening that despite that, he chose to go beyond the law and destroy a community project on city land.”
“It’s terrible to see all the broken pieces of the irrigation pipes laying on uprooted soil. The gardeners who set up the forest put so many hours of planning and hard labor into the system,” says LeyAnn, one of the recent members of the group, “and it was all illegally ripped out of the ground and destroyed. It’s disheartening, but is also a powerful motivator, and these actions have brought the gardeners and their supporters closer together, and made us stronger.”
The gardeners will be pursuing further action by contacting the city and also requesting that Hollands reimburses them for the damages. They hope in the future that property owners like Hollands choose to communicate and work respectfully with them about their concerns instead of destroying these community projects.
If you would like to help the gardeners out, as some of you have offered, you can donate to the Purple Thistle.
For more information, contact:
For more information, contact:
Kelsey Corbett: email@example.com
or Carla Bergman (Director of the Purple Thistle)