Every Monday and Thursday afternoon, I work a small plot of land called Red Clover Farm. It’s right in the heart of Vancouver, BC, the Downtown Eastside – a neighborhood rich in history, community, and culture, even as it struggles under the grinding burdens of poverty, mental illness, and addiction. Red Clover was started in 2006 by a local Christian drop-in community called Jacob’s Well, who broke the locks on gates surrounding otherwise derelict land with a vision to bring life and healing amongst streets of barrenness and pain. The farm consists in two parts across an alley from each other and has sold anywhere from 5 to 10 shares, then distributed the rest for free to anyone who wants it. In 2010, the folks who ran Red Clover moved on and passed it to the pastor of a local church, who farmed it for six years. Finally in the spring of this year, the farm was passed on to me.
Farming on urban land provides its challenges. Cities boast their own motley crew of pests, rats and mice to demolish the peas I just planted, seagulls to pick plant starts out of the ground, even the occasional skunk that digs up my potatoes. Then there’s the more human-related difficulties, like the needles left along the pathway into the farm or the occasional theft of food or tools. Farming on land owned by others provides another layer of complexity; immediately after I had planted my first round of peas and kale, I had to vacate that side of the farm due to a hand-over in ownership.
Yet as frustrating as these things may be, I love the opportunity I’ve been given. I love the chances to hear neighbors reminisce of their childhood on a farm, or remark about the beauty of the roses, or marvel at the sheer miracle of living abundance in the midst of garbage-littered alleys and dirty concrete buildings. I love watching seeds sprout. I love harvesting gigantic zucchini. I love the gift of friends who have come to share in the work.
Still, some days, the farm feels far from what I’d like it to be. I want to share the food more broadly, share the work more fully, develop the site more beautifully. But as I look back on what it was when I began, it has already become much more. The work of justice can feel slow, but watching the plants as they grow reminds me to be patient and allow that work God is growing through me at Red Clover to take its time, trusting that, with love and care, it too will bear fruit. Read more about Vicky and her EcoFaith Recovery Internship here.
Please feel free to share this post with others and use the comment field below to post your thoughts on this topic. Thanks!