Food Secure Columbia Valley Victory Gardens

Digging into the past to plant the future

Submitted by Columbia Valley Food and Farm

As the food dwindles on grocery store shelves, we as individuals are beginning to realize more and more the importance of a resilient food system. You may be wondering, where is our food coming from, and will we be able to purchase the foods we need in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? Will there be a disruption to our food supply? Can we grow enough food?

Over 100 years ago, during WWI, again during the Great Depression, and not many years later during WWII, people were asking the same questions. A movement arose back then that we are seeing coming to life now: people planting gardens and growing their own food.

In the past during times of scarcity and uncertainty, individuals and communities came together to grow what were called Victory Gardens. According to the Canadian encyclopedia: “The basic idea behind Victory and First World War-era war gardening was much the same: the more produce grown by Canadians in their front yards, vacant lots and former flower gardens, the less pressure on the local supply chains which were need to transport other war materials.” At its 1944 peak, it was estimated that 209,200 Victory Gardens were in operation nationwide, producing a total of 57,000 tonnes of vegetables.

We are hearing this call again from food security organizations across our country to grow as much food as possible, in as many places as possible: yards, curbs, vacant lots, etc. In light of the real possibility of our supply chains failing, this call to action is to ensure food for our families and communities. Communities across the globe and country are responding. Even cities such as Victoria are moving towards growing food and have passed a motion to grow more food plant seedlings in the city’s greenhouses.

Victory Gardens can once again offer communities in Canada a direct role in meeting our agricultural production needs while at the same time promising a very tangible way of obtaining food. There are also the additional nutritional, mental and social benefits of planting seeds and tending and harvesting a garden.

Feed The Valley, the gardening initiative

With the impact that COVID-19 may have on our food system, now is the time to grow more of our own food and increase our food security. Here are some ideas on how you can participate and get growing.

1. Plant a family garden

Throughout history, gardens have been a way of strengthening a country during hard times from the Victory Gardens mentioned above to Cuba turning its parking lots and entire country into productive agricultural space. In 2011 the “dacha” gardens of Russia produced 40 per cent of the nation’s food.

We can do just as well!

Start by finding an area in your yard, acquiring pots for your balcony, planting herbs in your window, or, if you’re feeling handy, building some raised beds wherever you have space. Think of the food you and your family love to eat fresh such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, lettuce, etc. Also think about what foods you can grow, process and store for the future: tomato sauce, pickles, sauerkraut, carrots, potatoes, onions and beets.

If you’re completely new to this, contact experts at one of our local garden centres: Winderberry Nurseries, Patty’s Greenhouse, Groundswell Community Greenhouse, Brisco Greenhouse, Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and Rona. Winderberry posted a video on their Facebook page about starting seeds and how to plant them in your garden. If starting your own garden isn’t possible, talk to neighbours or friends and see who can help, who might have space in their garden to share, or who can share knowledge or tools to help you to grow some food.

2. Double your impact

If you are one of the fortunate ones who have a garden plot that is bigger than you need, or if it can be enlarged, partner with a friend or family member who is not so fortunate and share the work and the harvest.

For example, a group of neighbours in Dutch Creek started a conversation about creating a community garden network which included all their gardens. They combined their space for food production and are working together to raise vegetables for the entire community.

You can do this too! If you are capable of growing food, reach out to those around you and see how you can help and who has space to grow but needs more hands.

3. Start a youth garden project

If you have a network of friends with kids home from school, a great way to get them learning is to get their hands dirty. In Ireland they started an ‘Incredible Edibles’ youth challenge to encourage the school children across the country to learn about growing food and to develop their own skills in food production. The schools farmed five Irish crops, including potatoes, lettuces, cabbages, scallions and strawberries in their classroom. They were encouraged to make their own growing diaries which is where the kids’ creativity blossomed, including fruit and vegetable recipes, science experiments, arts and crafts, and photographic accounts of the growing stages.

While students have had to move to a home-schooling model which can be a difficult transition, starting a growing project is a great learning alternative.

So, all you budding gardeners out there, go ahead and start a Youth Garden Project on your own or with a group of friends. You might even get to make a business out of it! Who needs a lemonade stand when you can sell carrots? Come together with a group of youth and join the farmers’ market at the Crossroads, which will waive the stall fee if youth gardeners want to sell their products when the Agri-Park Farmers’ Market resumes this summer.

Update on community gardens in the Columbia Valley

The Rotary Gardens in Radium Hot Springs is full this coming season, with a waitlist. You can find out more information on their Facebook page: Rotary Gardens – Radium Hot Springs or at their website http://www.radiumhotsprings.ca/content/radium-rotary-garden

The District of Invermere will work on the community gardens at Mt. Nelson Athletic Park. Recognizing the importance of community gardens, they have made it a priority project. As well, there are garden plots at the Groundswell Community Greenhouse. The Groundswell community gardens and community gardens at the park are managed by the team at Groundswell Network Society. To find out if there are any more available for this season, contact Groundswell at info@groundswellnetwork.ca Check out their website groundswellnetwork.ca and Facebook page too.

Are there other gardens in community spaces available this summer? Please let us know and we will pass it on.

Food Growing Resources

The idea of growing your own food might be overwhelming. That’s fair as it can be hard, laborious work. But it’s also rewarding and can connect you with the earth and your source of food. Gardening also nurtures a sense of community, while bringing your family together. There are a lot of resources out there explaining how to start a garden, where to start a garden, what crops are the best to grow, and a few hacks on growing during a pandemic.

Give it a go. Let’s GET GROWING Columbia Valley!

The image is from the Windermere Valley Museum Archive’s ‘Ranches in the Windermere Valley’ edition written in 2013 which talks about the history of ranching and agriculture in the Columbia Valley.

This information was brought to you by Columbia Valley Food and Farm, in collaboration with Columbia Valley Food Security Task Force, Columbia Valley Farmers Institute, Columbia Valley Community Economic Development Office, Columbia Valley Family Dynamix and Columbia Valley Food Bank.

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