A staple in Burnaby’s farming community is leaving the city.
Urban Digs, the well-known south Burnaby farm, announced last week it was closing its farm stand effective this past weekend.
Julia Smith, co-owner of Urban Digs, has been leasing land on Byrne Road that she uses to raise pigs and grow produce, which is then sold at the farm and through an online store.
“We bought a property up in Merritt in the fall, so we’ll be moving our production up here. Also, since we opened our web store, we’ve been noticing a lot of people are shopping online now, which is great, because I own the web store,” Smith said.
“It just made sense for us to put more of our effort in that direction, and less of our effort into a property that’s leased.”
The web store has really taken off recently, Smith told the NOW, with more and more people ordering their produce and meat online and having it delivered. She also has plans to open her Vancouver butcher shop to the public sometime in September. Until now, it’s only been used to process meat for sale at the farm stand.
On top of soaring sales through Urban Digs’ online store, Smith said the decision to transition to the 21-acre Nicola Valley farm was made easier following a couple of wet seasons in south Burnaby. Last year, a bad flood in February forced Smith to move the majority of her pigs to a farm in Chilliwack.
“There’s so much development going on in that area, and it gets wetter every year for us that our growing season gets shorter and shorter. They’ve got 10 acres of development going on on the block next door that they bring in 10 acres of sand to stabilize it, which pushes the water table up, and then they pave it and all that run-off has to go somewhere, and so that increased water table and all that run-off ends up in my field. So it’s been really challenging,” she said.
Despite her frustration, Smith said the move is more of a milestone than anything.
Considering Urban Digs started with only a quarter acre before moving to the three-acre site in Burnaby, it’s exciting that it’s already outgrown the local farm, she added. With three years left in their lease, Smith and her team will now begin the process of transitioning production to the new farm in Merritt.
“We’re just kind of pivoting. We’re a very small company with very limited resources and people, and so we have to make sure that we’re making those resources in the smartest way possible,” Smith said.