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SOLE FOODS Urban Farms

sole food farms

Gratitude | Passion

The rare glimmer of sun showed up last Tuesday evening. This night marked our 4th Neighbourhood Network – Event Series, and the moods were already up. Our guest speakers were: 1) a polished, veteran, political figure that is no stranger to the stage or a microphone 2) a first timer to the stage who brought 4 pages of notes, a shy and tentative presence, but most importantly, a brave face to another one of life’s challenges for him to meet.

I greeted our 1st timer, Alain, as soon as possible as he entered the TD bank in Olympic Village. He had come from work at one of SOLE FOOD’s Urban Farms in Vancouver, still wearing his work clothes, hat and backpack. I realize now, re-accounting the evening, that the next hour or so was not only was this man facing one of society’s biggest fears of public speaking, I was delaying his return to get home to his family after an already full day of work. Alain showed me his 4-pages of notes to talk to for his 5 minutes on stage. My 1st vision was a head down, hat on, quite delivery of 15 minutes of reading. I quickly realized that this is not going to work and that acting as a moderator for the speakers was designed for this exact situation.

Just rip off the bandaid!

We got started right away and after a quick introduction to, our mandate, philosophy and role in the community I invited Alain to his chair in front of a passionate audience of local residents, soon to be local residents, business owners and local leaders. We began to learn about SOLE FOOD Urban Farm’s operating capacity; their locations, staffing and immense production capacity of 20-25 tonnes of leafy vegetables annually. Alain’s eyes began to light up and his speech flowed smoothly now that he had the chance to speak about his passion.


farm in city

SOLE FOODS had gone from the light of hope to beacon of prosperity as you looked into the invigorated eyes of this thankful man. He spoke to his past medical ailments, hinted at a chemical dependence but moved on quickly through those troubled times and spoke to his progress. SOLE FOODS gave Alain a chance when he needed one. An incredible amount of bathroom breaks as his body was responding to as his physical ailments, and a history of chemical dependence would leave any employer looking down the line saying…. next. On paper, Alain was not the ideal employee but he was given a chance 7 years ago. Today, sitting beside me is a man glimmering in pride. He is now a supervisor. He rattles of the stats of each location and operations like it was his kid’s birthdays. He speaks with pride in his improved ability to take care of his family, the progress in treating his physical ailments, and his responsibility within SOLD FOODS.

His large, white eyes show a man. A man full of pride. A man who is in the driver seat and not on the side of the road asking for a ride. Tonight, he accepted the request and responsibility to face one of society’s most feared activities. This level of gratitude shows that there is something special at the source of SOLE FOODS. A compassionate business model that is here to serve the people, not a board of investors. A business model that is sustainable and provides a solution to provide many of the layers necessary to keep our society warm and fed.

Alain was not asked to take bullet, but I am sure he would have if asked.


*SOLE FOOD Urban Farms employs 18-25 people from the Downtown East Side (DTES). They operate 5 facilities in the core of Vancouver producing 20-25 tonnes of leafy vegetable annually. They have become North Americas largest urban farm project. For more info on SOLE FOOD Urban Farms Click here. 

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