Meet Your Farmer: Urban Digs Farm

Amidst office buildings and residential homes in the Big Bend area of South Burnaby sits three acres of agriculture property known as Urban Digs Farm. The farm is owned by Julia Smith and Ludo Ferrari, both of whom are very passionate about sustainable and ethical agriculture especially when it comes to raising animals in a compassionate way. While visiting one sunny Saturday morning, I interacted with happy ducks, pigs, chickens, and goats as I followed Julia around her land. She also shared many of the challenges and opportunities facing an urban farm of this scale.

I was moved when watching a video made about them by Fire and Light Media Group. Like Julia and Ludo, Joel Salatin’s Polyface farming model has inspired me, too. I also loved Julia’s sentiment that “growing food creates community”, something my husband and I are working to create in our own neighbourhood.


I think it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of buying and eating local. There is rampant greenwashing going on in grocery stores and restaurants. While CSA box subscriptions and farmer’s markets continue to expand, are we really doing enough? It can be extremely challenging for farmers to scratch out a living while still adhering to ethical practices. Julia believes that farmers want to do better by their animals, but it’s often not profitable.

“Why shouldn’t good farmers, who know how to grow food of sufficient quality to keep us out of the hospital, be treated and rewarded like the heart surgeon who fixes the problems caused by cheap food?” ~ Joel Salatin

Part of the hurdle for us as consumers is understanding the true value of local food. “Local produce can often be harvested and consumed the very same day, allowing for natural ripening and higher nutritional content.” Julia wrote a very informative article on many of the hidden costs of the conventional food systems, that you can read here.


So what can we do to help reshape our food system? If you can, start by growing your own food. There are many benefits, but a big one is having a better understanding of all of the hard work that goes into growing a great tomato! Reach out to your local farmers. Engage them while you buy at your local farmer’s market. Better yet, go out, visit them, and buy direct. For me, meeting the animals at Urban Digs and  seeing how happy and well fed they are really opened my eyes to the potential of ethical and sustainable farming. That’s definitely something I endorse and hope to see on a larger scale.


20140530_2738How can you support the Urban Digs farm:


Beasty Boxes Urban Digs Farm & Re-up BBQ have teamed up to offer this “nose to tail” butchery box.


Harvest Box CSA Our Harvest Box CSA program provides subscribers with a weekly box of fresh, seasonal vegetables grown on our member farms—all located in the Metro Vancouver region.


Pig Shares You can buy a whole, a half, or a quarter pig. We’ll take care of everything and you will receive your meat all butchered into small portions, including sausages & bacon.


Restaurants featuring Urban Digs products.


Another relevant resource:


Meet Your Urban Farmer Videos featuring many urban farmers in the Metro Vancouver area.

Written By:

Photographer and stylist Danika McDowell enjoys exploring healthy, sustainable food systems while strengthening her connection to the people who grow her family's groceries. Visit her blog and her design portfolio ...

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