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Farmland Ecosystem Services Project

There are many problems in today’s world, and two of the most pressing are climate change and species extinctions. It is easy to lose hope; when unable to imagine a happy healthy future, many of us throw our hands in the air. At SPEC however, we work with a group of people who instead throw their hands into the soil, working hard to produce food for local people.

Image on the left, Photo Credit: Ciarán Mooney

These small-scale farmers are the unsung heroes of our time. Because their farms are small and they generally do not own the land, they fall between the cracks of many programs intended to help farmers. There is a huge opportunity for the expansion of small-scale farming in Metro Vancouver, with three quarters of parcels smaller than five acres currently not farmed and therefore idle.

Not only are these small-scale farmers producing valuable food, but their farms often improve the soil quality, which means that the land can produce food for generations to come. Many of these farmers also care about the impact their farms have on local and global ecosystems and adopt sustainable farm practices, such as cover cropping, planting a diversity of crops, and adding compost to the soil.

But food production is not the only thing small scale farmers do. The new buzz word is Ecosystem Services, also known as Nature’s Contributions to People. By adding value to our lives, such as the inspiration you get from a bike ride through the countryside, and more concrete things like regulating floods and supporting wild pollinator populations, these Ecosystem Services are very valuable to all members of society, whether or not you are a farmer. We believe that the best way to encourage these services is to support farmers in their role as stewards of the land, as well as engage the public to raise awareness on the topic.

The Project

The Farmland Ecosystem Services Project works with small-scale farmers in Metro Vancouver to increase their resilience and also their ability to further contribute to society. Our programs include:

  • A yearly seminar for 50-60 small-scale farmers that educates on key topics and practical solutions, while facilitating networking between farmers
  • Free soil testing to small-scale farmers along with expert management recommendations
  • A comprehensive resource about locally available composts
  • Free cover crop seeds for farmers in the Fall, so that their soils are replenished and protected from winter rain and wind erosion
  • Public outreach so that people learn about the value of small-scale farms in Metro Vancouver
  • Practical workshops for farmers with topics such as compost, pollinators, soil, drainage, and cover cropping
  • Free farm pest and disease diagnosis and advice
  • Collaboration with farmers to plant pollinator habitat on their farms

Scientists agree that knowledge about how to produce food and support nature is of critical importance at this point in time. We have been lucky to work with small-scale farmers in Vancouver since 2016 and hope to see their success and numbers grow. They bring us hope for a better future. To learn more or to contribute to this project please contact Georgia Stanley at ecosystemservices@spec.bc.ca


We could not do this work without our generous funders:
  • Patagonia Environmental Grants Fund of Tides Foundation
  • Vancouver Foundation
  • UBC
  • British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture

We are also very grateful to our collaborators:

  • UBC Botanical Garden
  • UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Langley Small Farm Network
  • Farmland Advantage
  • Young Agrarians
  • Vancouver Urban Farm Society
  • UBC Sauder School of Business
  • Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust
  • Earthwise Society
  • Simon Fraser University
  • Regeneration Canada
  • E.S. Cropconsult
  • West Coast Seeds
  • Expert advisors
  • Volunteers
  • All our 70+ farm partners

If you would like to donate to this project you can make a gift here

2021 Small Farm Sessions - Webinar Recordings 

Missed our Small Farm Sessions for 2021?

All three recordings are available to view below. 

Session 1: Soil and Nutrient Management 

Session 2: Integrated Approaches to Farm Pest Management 

Session 3: Bringing Degraded Soils Back to Life

Copyright © 2021

Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

Canadian charitable registration number:

118836311 RR0001

Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

2305 West 7th Ave 

Vancouver, BC  V6K 1Y4

T: 604.736.7732

E:  admin@spec.bc.ca

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