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While cycling in a Vancouver neighbourhood I don’t know well, rushing to meet up with friends after work, it dawned on me that I was about to show up to a celebration both sweaty and empty-handed.
Flowers were in order, but that’s a tall one to fill on a Wednesday evening when your route is along Adanac Street between Boundary Road and Railtown. Or so I thought.
As I mounted the hill leading up to Windermere Market, I saw a table had been set up outside the local grocer, filled with flowers and a sign reading Suelo & Faa.
“When we were talking through what it is about who we are that is rooted in growing flowers, we came up with suelo, Spanish for soil, and faa, Cantonese for flower,” says Chantelle Chan, explaining how she and her Argentinian friend, Teresa Porter, named their pandemic side hustle.
Chan was flying solo at Suelo & Faa’s weekly Wednesday pop-up at Windermere Market, selling flowers that came from nearby urban farms, in bouquets priced at $15-$30.
“We got to know each other through our love of dahlias,” Chan told me, referring to Porter, a friend she first met at high school in east Vancouver. “The beauty, ease and variety—there’s so many different colours, shapes and sizes you can grow.”
The problem with loving dahlias in a city where yards are a luxury is that the flowers only produce a handful of tubers each season. Last fall, the women came up with the idea to combine their stocks to start an urban flower farm. By winter, Suelo & Faa was sprouting out of five donated yards.
“From February to May, I had hundreds of plants in my basement,” says Chan. “Just a ton of shelving trays full of plant babies. It was a game changer to have knowledge from Teresa to figure out how many of each plant to seed.”
Not only does Porter have a master’s degree in science, she’s also worked on farms throughout B.C., and those connections supported Suelo & Faa through its first year. The endeavour was also made possible through the non-profit Young Agrarians, a farmer to farmer educational resource network, which normally doesn’t work with urban farmers.
It’s only fitting that Suelo & Faa operates as a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, with a shareholder price of $300 for 12 weekly bouquets, or half price for deliveries every other week. Single bouquets will be sold at popup events until early October, but Suelo & Faa is sure to grow in Vancouver, since many people have already offered their yards for next year.
“People are so generous with their time and their knowledge. I’m not sure if we got lucky or if it’s a symptom of the pandemic,” says Chan. “It’s nice to have this window each week, where you see someone and you catch up on their life. You really get to know the regulars. I hadn’t anticipated that would be such a nice part of flower farming.”
Stopping to smell the flowers in Hastings-Sunrise became a habit after that Wednesday.