A non-profit based in Richmond, The Sharing Farm mean what they say in their name—it’s all about sharing, especially with those who face food shortages.
The Sharing Farm’s mission is to reduce food insecurity. With the added strain of the cost of living crisis, the farm has become a haven for those in need. They have initiatives spanning from food banks to community meal programs, raking up an impressive 19,339 pounds of produce so far. And they also offer harvest baskets and your “five-a-day” at their farm location, and farmers markets across Metro Vancouver.
We sat down with Executive Director; Leslie Williams and chair member Doris Bruce to learn more!
By Avneet Takhar
Tell us how Sharing Farms all started, Leslie!
The Sharing Farm Society (TSF) started when a group of Richmond folks realized that food banks rarely had fresh produce available. In order to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to community members facing food insecurity, the founders of TSF began to grow produce for donation on a small plot of land.
Eventually the City of Richmond, realizing that TSF was fulfilling an important need, gave us land at Terra Nova Park, where we now grow food on four acres.
That’s so inspiring! And how does the initiative work in providing for food banks and community meal programs?
At TSF we believe that food is a human right, that all people have the right to live free from hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. TSF annually produces approximately 20,000 pounds of fresh, local, sustainably grown and nutritious produce for donation to the Richmond Food Bank, community meal programs, and individual families.
This work is supported by grants and donations, volunteers, city support, and revenue from our diverse range of social enterprises, including a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a Farm Stand, Farmers Markets, an Online Store, and our annual fundraiser at the Richmond Garlic Fest.
With an emphasis on growing produce for those facing food insecurity, has the rising cost of living had any further impact on this?
High and rising food prices, overall inflation, and the general high cost of living in the Lower Mainland means that more and more people—across all demographics, from children to seniors, from newcomers to fifth generation Canadians—are facing food insecurity, a reality which the Richmond Food Bank records through keeping track of their client numbers.
In light of this, I hope to increase our donations if possible this year, although our harvests are always dependent on weather and staff, as well as revenues from grants, donations, and our social enterprises.
Community members who purchase our produce help us fulfill our mandate of providing local, nutritious and sustainably-grown produce to those facing food insecurity.
Would you have any suggestions on the ways people can save pennies, and still support local food producers during these times?
Our Community Supported Agriculture- CSA program (Harvest Baskets and Egg Share) is a good way to support our work while also enjoying incredibly fresh and nutritious produce. The way it works is that you buy a share in The Farm at the start of the season, and help us secure our funding at the outset.
In return, we provide you with 17 weeks of fresh fruits and veggies. Our CSA members are crucial supporters of our mission and members of our Farm family, and we give these folks the best deals possible on our produce, while also covering our costs.
In light of the pressure many folks are feeling with inflation, this year we are offering an installment plan for monthly payments for CSA members, rather than having to pay it all upfront. CSA members pick up their weekly produce either at the Farm (Terra Nova Park, 2771 Westminster Hwy, Richmond), or at our site in East Van (2928 East Georgia Street).
Is The Farm open to the public to explore?
The Farm is located in a public park, Terra Nova (2771 Westminster Hwy, Richmond), and as such it is open 24/7 to the public. We encourage people to come see a working farm in action, observe what their food looks like growing in the fields and greenhouses, and volunteer with us during one of our many drop-in volunteer sessions (Thursdays and Fridays, 9 am -12:30 pm; Saturdays in July (except Canada Day), 10 am-12 pm.) Anyone is welcome; no skills or experience necessary.
Any events coming up that we should know about?
Our annual Richmond Garlic Fest! We have a kids’ area, workshops and tours, a big farmers market and vendors area, music performances, food stalls and food trucks, (including lots of garlic-themed food,) and many booths highlighting environmental issues.
Held alongside the Garlic Fest is the Richmond Raptor Fest, with live bird-of-prey demonstrations and education. It’s a very fun and family-friendly event that draws thousands of folks from across the Lower Mainland.
For anyone who wants to get involved at Sharing Farms, what should they do?
There are many ways for people to get involved: they can volunteer: solo, with friends or family, or with their company or organization. They can buy our produce, and also through one of our many social enterprise initiatives and they can sponsor a food-insecure family to receive one of our CSA memberships, which would provide the family with 17 weeks of produce.
They can donate to our work, become a member, or attend our workshops and events. And they can spread the word about our work, advocate for sustainable local produce, equitable food systems, and greater food security.
And how does becoming a member – like yourself, Doris – contribute to the success at TSF?
Board members are ultimately accountable for the sustainability and well-being of The Farm by developing policies and strategic plans which support our mission and overall success. Members are responsible for oversight of The Farm’s operations through supporting the ED (Executive Director) as she faces the challenges and opportunities involved in ensuring The Farm’s performance.
Being a member of The Sharing Farm Board of Directors has provided a wonderful opportunity for me in my retirement to continue to use a range of skills developed throughout my career.
Visit the Sharing Farm at their stand and these various markets this summer:
Saturdays 10 am-2 pm, starting June 17
Thursdays from 4-7 pm, starting June 22
Fridays 3-5 pm starting June 23
Tuesdays noon- 4 pm, starting mid-July
Sunday 10 am-3 pm, August 20
There are many ways to get to each of these spots in Metro Vancouver by transit. Visit TransLink’s Trip Planner to find your way.