Purple Thistle Youth Urban Agriculture: Radicle Gardeners

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Media Advisory

Youth Community Food Forest Illegally Destroyed by Business Owner

The Purple Thistle Food Forest, a 2-year-old youth collective permaculture garden in East Vancouver, has been illegally destroyed by neighbouring business owner David Hollands. The food forest is predominantly located on city land, with a small section on Hollands property. In the fall, Hollands demanded that the young gardeners evict his property by November 1st. The gardeners complied, removing approximately a dozen trees from along the wall of his building, and followed up by sending him a confirmation email and also asking that he respect the rest of the food forest, located on city property, and allow it to grow in peace.

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This morning Purple Thistle gardeners visited the site and found the entire food forest destroyed, with irrigation chopped up, all the plants removed, and trees uprooted and left in buckets. All this without notification. They know this to be the actions of Hollands, as several weeks prior they intercepted a work crew employed by him who had been tasked to clear the entire site, which is not on his property.

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The site that the food forest is on was originally used as an illegal dumping ground. In 2010, the young gardeners pulled out 250kg of garbage, conducted soil tests to check for contamination, brought in organic matter and compost, and planted over 50 fruit trees, plus medicinal and edible plants.  The young gardeners were also working to restore a small wetland on the site. The food forest has served as an educational lab and a community hub, and has been home to several youth garden and beekeeping programs for children as young as 9 years old, all in the heart of an industrial wasteland.

Heartbroken but not defeated, the young gardeners will be seeking justice. “Learning to grow food collectively at the Food Forest has taught us many lessons that go beyond urban agricultural practices. We’ve learned what it means to work together, work with nature and work within a community. We truly believed that if we could grow food next to the train tracks in this industrial wasteland, folks could learn to clean up the land and grow food anywhere.” That was “the goal”, says Kelsey Corbett, youth garden coordinator for the Purple Thistle.  “And it is really interesting, as a young person, to recognize that the biggest barriers we have faced this year have been the attacks to our gardens from big business owners. We complied with Hollands requests and it’s really disheartening that despite that, he chose to go beyond the law and destroy a community project on city land.”

“It’s terrible to see all the broken pieces of the irrigation pipes laying on uprooted soil. The gardeners who set up the forest put so many hours of planning and hard labor into the system,” says LeyAnn, one of the recent members of the group, “and it was all illegally ripped out of the ground and destroyed. It’s disheartening, but is also a powerful motivator, and these actions have brought the gardeners and their supporters closer together, and made us stronger.”

The gardeners will be pursuing further action by contacting the city and also requesting that Hollands reimburses them for the damages. They hope in the future that property owners like Hollands choose to communicate and work respectfully with them about their concerns instead of destroying these community projects.


For more information, contact:

For more information, contact:

Kelsey Corbett:

or Carla Bergman (Director of the Purple Thistle)



How to get involved?

contact Kelsey:


Come by and visit!

We have weekly workparties on Sundays, from 10am to 5pm.  Drop by any time in that window to get your hands dirty, share some food with us, meet folks and get familiar with the project and all the different ways to get involved!  Food is provided, and there’s almost always something to take home at the end of the day.  Our gardens are located along Vernon Dr. from Parker St. to Charles St., just west of Clark Dr. in East Vancouver.  Email for more infos.

The Food Forest Pod is hosting alternative workdays, Tuesdays from 2-5pm, meeting at the food forest and relating to various aspects of our newest garden.  Email for more infos.

In addition, we have Monthly Potlucks at 7pm on the first Tuesday of the month at the Purple Thistle Center.   These are a great opportunity to meet new people, introduce yourself to the garden project, and get involved in some of the many working groups we have.

Some of our sub-groups:

Bees, mushroom cultivation, bioremediation, plant medicines, compost & soil, water & irrigation, flowers, food forest, garden design, outreach, and art & zines!

Hope to see you out in the gardens!

** bus tickets are available, just let us know!

Welcome to the Purple Thistle Gorilla Gardeners Project

Beginning with the desire to grow food on grassy boulevards in the heart of East Van’s industrial district, the first Purple Thistle garden was established in the spring of 2010.  Since then, our group of inspired thistlers collectively grow food, build, keep bees, experiment, play, dig our hands into the earth and learn.  Some of us have background and experience in gardening… but many of us start with only the interest and desire to learn.  If we don’t know how to do it ourselves, we find someone who does.

We are interested in learning about how things grow, about the many different organic methods of growing, in being creative, recovering and reclaiming the land, building things, making medicine, learning the skills we want by doing… by making… by asking questions… by experimenting and arriving at answers – together.  If you are someone who is interested in joining us, please contact us or come by and visit some time soon!

Our Gardens

We currently have three distinct sites of cultivation, remediation and provocation in the industrial district just east of Commercial Drive.

- The Parker St. Garden is the first and the most fermented, where we hang out, share meals, and practice intensive, no-till annual cultivation, crop rotation, various forms of companion planting, and grow food and medicine alike.

- The Vernon St. Garden (aka the crotch) is where we grow larger crops like garlic and grains and experiment with draught resistant plants.

-Finally, the Purple Thistle Community Food Forest is our newest garden, a huge, oddly shaped remediation project that hugs a cul de sac at the junction of Charles St. and Vernon Dr., by the train tracks.  This is an ambitious  permaculture project involving creating a self-maintaining polyculture of perennial fruit and nut trees, native berries and medicinals, and perennial and annual vegetable crops, as well as remediating a trashed wetland and building a community gathering space.  It’s in its first year and flourishing, but there is much still to do and much to contribute and partake of, so do come on done and get your hands dirty with us!



The Thistle has three beehives and a dedicated crew of beekeepers who maintain the hives, harvest the honey, process the wax, collect the propolis, get really sticky (!), and who love to learn and to share what they know.  You can contact to get involved.
Plant Medicines!

The Thistle also has a well-stocked herbal apothecary, and there be herbalists about!  The apothecary and the medicines in it are free and there are dropper bottles at the Thistle to take medicine home in.  In addition, we do regular wildcrafting trips and plant walks!  If you have any questions about the medicines or are interested in learning more, going wildcrafting, or contributing to the apothecary, contact