Monday October 3, 2022 | COLWOOD, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
Over the past six months, a lot has been growing at Royal Roads University in Colwood.
Back in April, media and the community were invited to see the new community garden at its on-the-ground inception. Today, the long vines and tall stalks speak volumes about the success of the garden within tall white walls on the campus.
Currently the university is giving the community 120 lb of organic produce a week. In this inaugural year of the Giving Garden, 1,000 lb of fresh produce will have been distributed to the community.
The first of four projects:
RRU President Philip Steenkamp explains that the community garden is one of four garden projects in the works.
Recently the second garden — where Indigenous edible and medical plants will be grown — was improved as to drainage. Steenkamp says an Indigenous ethnobotanist is developing that project.
The third garden will be a ‘poly-fruit orchard’ (of heritage trees and new plantings) — that’s on the slate for 2023. The warmth of the enclosed garden acreage encourages fruit trees to ripen early. The original tree plantings included apple, plum, mulberry pear, and English walnut.
And the fourth garden will in the future supply the campus cafeteria with fresh produce.
Also in the planning stage is a garden to commemorate the Chinese community that build much of the original Royal Roads buildings and grounds, says Steenkamp.
Today several speakers kicked off the garden celebration ahead of a tour through the rows of plants that provide produce for community food banks and other organizations that serve low-income and other groups in the community.
Leading the event was RRU VP Communications and Advancement Susan Gee. She first introduced RRU President Dr Philip Steenkamp.
“I’m very excited to experience the fall harvest of the Giving Garden, and of course its links to our community,” said Steenkamp right off the top.
Dr Steenkamp has provided leadership for the overall food supply initiatives, from the start. Today he said that food security on Vancouver Island is a concern, and that the RRU Giving Garden is making a small contribution to boosting food availability in the community.
Produce from the garden goes to low-income, immigrants, single-parents, food-box programs, and the community fridge (a new facility in the Rock Bay area of Victoria).
Donations help a lot:
Steenkamp reminded the group of about 40 people gathered in the garden area under sunny skies that “their money is important”… fundraising continues for the Vision in Bloom initiative.
The Vision in Bloom fundraising target is $250,000 to support ongoing work to restore, reimagine and sustain the university’s century-old gardens and ancient landscapes.
RRU food systems manager Solara Goldwynn said they are grateful to anyone who has donated to the project. “It was their dollars turned into ecosystems and community well-being. Keep it up! Please donate more because when we give, the garden gives back,” she said today.
Donations help reimagine and transform the historic Kitchen Garden (an Edwardian style garden from the early days — in the early 1900s — when the Dunsmuir Family built the castle and grounds) into a living landscape and laboratory, supporting academic programming and research, and providing organic produce to the community.
The new food production garden aims to “decolonize the garden space,” said Steenkamp.
Donations will also support expansion of the existing apiary to provide support and protection for bees, which are invaluable pollinators.
Partnering for distribution:
The university has partnered with Iyé Creative and Upbeet Garden to further the goals of the Giving Garden food production program. Much of the food distribution and community caring is organized by those partners who operate established food systems and distribution networks on Vancouver Island.
RRU considers the partnership to be “a win-win for the university, its partners and vulnerable communities”.
Jessie Wallis spoke about Upbeet Garden. She is enthusiastic about the connection with Iyé that resulted in a partnership with Royal Roads. She says Upbeet, which she co-founded with Brooke Williams, grows its own produce on an eighth of an acre and distributes weekly produce boxes. Working with Goldwynn, the organization added squash, beans and the ever-popular collard greens.
And RRU grad Emily Mulroney outlined how she and her team did a lot of research in their pre-grad time to envision how the garden might be developed and operated, and what would grow well there.
Many types of edibles are growing in the garden in this extended warm fall growing season including squash, tomatoes, collard greens, garlic and sunflowers.
A couple of big winter squash were cut from the vine as part of a photo-op. One of them weighed at least 15 lb, said Goldwynn.
The garden takes advantage of mounded rows of soil, aka ‘no dig’ garden. Irrigation has not been required in the last few weeks, despite the current drought.
Over the winter there will be a cover crop of garlic, winter peas and fava (broad) beans, said Goldwynn in chatting today with Island Social Trends. A cover crop helps maintain the soil over the winter.
Anyone is who is interested in getting involved in the food sharing program may contact Royal Roads University for details.
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke is a food security enthusiast. Her B.Sc. is in nutrition science, with a second major in sociology. She holds a Certificate in Public Relations, and a certificate in digital marketing. She has won recognition for her journalism and her business skills as contributing to the broader community.
Ms Brooke has been a journalist and publisher on the west shore since 2008. She launched and has evolved for now 15 years a series of publications about community growth on the west shore: MapleLine Magazine quarterly colour glossy 2008-2010, weekly grayscale print Sooke Voice News 2011-2013 (archived at the Sooke Region Museum), weekly colour print/PDF West Shore Voice News 2014-2020 (archived at the Sooke Region Museum), and the fully online news portal Island Social Trends since mid-2020.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends delves into the socioeconomic momentum of growing communities on the west shore of South Vancouver Island, also covering relevant aspects of BC and national news.
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