In the heart of Burnaby, the highrises of Metrotown preside over the hustle and bustle of a modern city and all its trappings, from the rumble of the SkyTrain to the honking of cars.
But head south, as the crow flies, through Royal Oak and past Marine Drive, towards the Fraser River and there - just beyond the industrial complexes of the Big Bend - is a small and peaceful pocket of countryside.
In all, there's about 600 acres of farmland here, tucked up between the banks of the river and the bustle of business.
For Dave Carlson, it's the place where he's planting the seeds of a unique dream that he hopes to see grow and flourish in the coming years.
It may be grey skies and chilly weather now, but Carlson is already looking ahead to the planting season and the sunny summer beyond.
He runs Common Ground Community Farm. With just one season under his belt, he's keen to get started on the next one.
"I took over the property last May," he said. "It was a chicken farm, run by some friends of mine. I was studying horticulture at Kwantlen and called them up and asked if I could rent some space for a crop."
The bad news was that they were closing up their chicken farm. The good news was that when Carlson inquired about taking over the lease for the entire property, the owner of the land was happy to make a deal with him.
"I said 'Let's do it.' It's about an acre-and-a-half, and I live on it as well now," he says.
And he knew immediately what he wanted to do with the land: set up a CSA farm to help provide sustainable, healthy produce to people in the region.
"It's a bit like contract farming," says Carlson. "But it means growing food for people locally."
A sustainable model
CSAs - short for community supported agriculture - are a growing phenomenon as small family farms struggle to find new ways to stay viable and the public appetite for local food grows.
The model is simple: members buy in with shares at the start of the season and then receive boxes of produce each week till the season ends.
(See sidebar "What is a CSA" at right for more information.)
It's a win-win model, says Tallulah Winkelman with the Vancouver-based Farm Folk City Folk organization, because it helps provide income to the farmer at a costly time of year, and alleviates uncertainty about ensuring there will be a market for the goods while providing quality, sustainable goods to the consumers - all while being good to earth, too.
CSAs, she says, are one part of the puzzle of connecting farmers and consumers in an economically feasible way.
"We're working toward a local, sustainable agriculture, and there's a lot of components to that," she said.
CSAs, along with farmers' markets and other community food projects, help simplify the process by removing the middleman - the supplier.
There are some trade-offs, for people who are used to picking and choosing from a huge array of choice in a traditional grocery store.
"What you don't get to do is say 'this week, I want two tomatoes.' But what you get is what's growing, and that's such an amazing thing for a bunch of reasons."
For one, it's fresh - no sitting in cold storage for weeks on end.
"And you might find you're eating things that you wouldn't normally. You might get something in your box that you haven't had before, and now you find a way to cook it and learn something new."
For the farmers, it helps alleviate some of the concerns around supply and demand - either having poor crops or bumper crops - and provides some upfront capital for them to invest in the farm right at the start of the season.
It's a movement that's growing in popularity, and it's not a fad, she says.
"There's a great resurgence of interest in all of this - people want to know more about their food system. When I started (with Farm Folk City Folk) a lot of people didn't know what I was talking about - now it's normal, people know what a farmers' market is, they know what community gardens are," she said. "Younger people are getting interested in canning . or in learning first-hand from farmers."
For Carlson, who was born in New Westminster and raised on South Pender Island, what all that means is a chance to pursue a dream.
He runs a successful food catering business, primarily in the local film industry and while he enjoys it, his heart is increasingly in the farm.
"It's wonderful. What a great job," he said with a laugh.
Last season, he grew dozens of different crops, from herbs to squash and everything in between, and had 17 members. He also sold produce at a number of local farm markets.
This year, he's hoping to expand his membership to 60, particularly with residents in neighbouring communities like New Westminster, for the 20-week season.
And he may bring in some new "friends" as well.
"In the spring, I plan to get some goats and start making goat cheese, and maybe some chickens to get some eggs," he said.
"I've always been into gardening; about five years ago I came in fourth for a residential garden award," he said.
A couple years ago, he enrolled in Kwantlen University's Richmond Farm School and his interest in horticulture, agriculture and especially local food systems bloomed.
He runs the farm with an integrated pest management system: replacing pesticides by re-introducing beneficial insects and using certain crops in lieu of herbicides to manage soil fertility and attract bees. Carlson notes that the farm isn't certified organic - an often long and costly process to qualify for the label - but he uses organic farming methods in every component and is happy to show members how everything works.
"It's sustainable, and it's the way to go," he said.
If potential members in the surrounding area agree, this small Burnaby farm could soon be booming and Carlson may be calling this tiny patch of farmland 'home' for many years to come.
For more information, see www.cgorganicfarm.com
Fast farm facts:
What is a CSA: