Richmond Growing [Blog]

This summer, we (Shirley Ting and An Xu) were offered the amazing opportunity to develop Richmond Growing, a social media campaign, in collaboration with Urban Bounty

As a community-based food security initiative, Urban Bounty has over 20 years of experience in community programming, engagement, and advocacy. Their expertise and guidance was invaluable in co-developing Richmond Growing in alignment with community strengths and objectives. In essence, we wanted to help showcase the unique methods and practices of Richmond’s local gardeners, but we also wanted to create some connections— between the gardeners, Urban Bounty, and the local community at large through personal stories. 

Richmond Growing was a very fun and rewarding project to do. We commuted around the city to interview community gardeners, conduct archival research, and explore Richmond’s green spaces. Neither of us grew up in Richmond, so we didn’t know the communities very well, but we were so touched by how kind and generous everyone was. We were often treated to and sent home with armfuls of fresh produce, snacks, and even whole pizzas. As Ian Lai, Urban Bounty’s executive director, puts it, “Nobody should ever leave empty handed!” 

Even more than our bounty of fresh produce, was the bounty of amazing stories that the local gardeners shared with us. They welcomed us into their gardens, their homes, and shared with us their migration stories, treasured childhood memories, and profound life philosophies. 

Our favourite moment of the whole project was when the gardeners alongside Urban Bounty and INSTRCC staff trekked to Terra Nova Rural Park for a community potluck. Folks brought food harvested from their own gardens, snacks made by their Grandma, and Ian Lai prepared a showstopping only-once-a-year galette. As research assistants, we had been in contact with everyone throughout the summer, but it was so nice to see, sit down, and enjoy a meal with the gardeners. Perhaps even more importantly, the gardeners, who had been following each others’ stories on social media, were able to chat and meet each other for the first time. One of the gardeners, Maitrayee Shah, remarked that it felt “just like a family gathering.” It reminded us that while this project was a “social media campaign” intended to reach and resonate with folks over the internet, it’s also important to celebrate and center these seemingly small scale interpersonal relationships. We think that’s what makes community-based projects so amazing to facilitate—finding commonality and bonding over differences within the community ultimately creates more of a sense of belonging and connection. 

What’s Next?

We are pleased to share that the team is at work developing the next stage of our partnership with Urban Bounty, further exploring community story sharing and the foodscapes of Richmond. 

To view more of Richmond Growing, please visit Urban Bounty’s Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook

Written by Shirley Ting and An Xu