Reflecting on a Year of Resilience, and Urban Abundance, in Vancouver, WA24 Dec 2020, by Slow Food SW WA in
Harvest VISTA Lynsey Horne is wrapping up two years of service with Slow Food SW WA & Urban Abundance in Vancouver, WA in February. As her term comes to a close, she’s been reflecting on what the organization has accomplished and how it changed over the course of the past two years to accommodate the community’s shifting needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Urban Abundance is a Vancouver, WA-based program focused on increasing equitable access to healthy food through the engagement of neighbors in creating, maintaining, and harvesting edible landscapes that are accessible to all. Over the past year and ten months, they’ve engaged several hundred volunteers who collectively harvested around 15,000 lbs of fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste from 5 community orchards and dozens of backyards each fall. They’ve taught community members how to prune, harvest, and control pests in their backyard orchards, how to preserve pollinators and build compost piles in their backyards, the basics of home food preservation, and more topics related to overall food sovereignty. In all, the program has provided over $50,000 in community value with operating costs of around $12,000 over the past two years.
One project the organization developed in response to the COVID pandemic this year, dubbed the Resiliency Garden project in homage to the Victory Gardens of WII times, sought to install community agricultural spaces that would be accessible to the public. Mostly focusing on hell strips (the strip of grass in between the road and sidewalk), the project ended up becoming very popular, especially in Vancouver’s urban center where folx without vehicles often don’t have access to emergency food services that are located further out of town. To date, the program has built over 1,400 square feet of publicly accessible agricultural spaces throughout Vancouver’s city limits. This program was successful in large part due to widespread community support; compost and garden tools were donated by a local garden shop, vegetable starts were planted and tended to by a local farm, and homeowners themselves were responsible for preparing their beds before UA dropped off the rest of the materials.
In all, the small size of Urban Abundance, although that came with its own set of limitations, provided Harvest VISTA Lynsey with maximum opportunity to learn about almost every aspect that went into running its day-to-day operations – more than she would have had she only been responsible for one aspect of the program. As with any organization, there were many spinning plates going at all times. Being the only staff person, she was able to get her hands dirty planning events, recruiting volunteers, maintaining relationships with community partners, conducting outreach, executing the various projects that Urban Abundance planned over the course of her service, and more. Over the course of the two years she served, the changing circumstances that came with a worldwide pandemic provided many challenges, but also many opportunities to get creative in response to shifting community needs.