Grow your own food: “Growing Together – Safely Apart”

The District is sharing this release on behalf of a collaborative initiative of the ‘Good Food Network’

The Good Food Network launches Capital Region-wide “Growing Together” Initiative to help residents grow their own food

COVID-19 may have us separated, but the Growing Together initiative says we can still support one another to grow our own food Capital Region, BC – Today, a group of food related organizations in the CRD launched their initiative called Growing Together. Their goal? to encourage and support residents throughout the Capital Region to grow their own food— in converted lawns, raised beds, pots, patios or windowsills. “We know lots of people are trying growing food for the very first time, and we know that they may also be out of work, and facing challenges. We want to help them be successful”, says Linda Geggie, “What is more hopeful than growing a garden in these times?”

Geggie is Executive Director of the non-profit CRFAIR, that serves as the backbone of the regional food network. CRFAIR is working “as quarterback” to coordinate all participating organizations behind the initiative. Says Geggie: “Growing Together is a campaign that is working to provide knowledge, mentors, connections, tools and support. It is designed to get folks outside, get their hands in the dirt, and there are lots of positive benefits for health and well being in doing that”.

The landing page for the Growing Together initiative is their website, which will be ‘Grand Central Station” to access educational videos and resources, mentorship, links to sourcing seeds, plants and everything you might need to garden and grow food. There are also special supports in place for folks who might need an extra hand through community projects that provide everything from plant starts to whole garden kits. This site also provides links to volunteer, mentor, or donate to support the program.

The list of participating local food organisations is long and growing, including well-known agencies such as the Compost Education Center, the Food Eco District, Growing Chefs, the Public Health Association of BC, and Lifecycles Project Society. For years now, these groups and many others have been collaborating as the Good Food Network to ensure that their efforts to build a robust place based food system are coordinated and efficient. When the COVID-19 pandemic developed, the Good Food Network realized it had a significant role to play. Says Geggie, “Why not mobilize this network? The Growing Together initiative is a way to get everyone pulling together in a united effort”. Growing Chefs is one participating organization. For eight years, they have run hands-on programs in elementary schools, teaching kids about cooking and gardening in the classroom. Typically Growing Chefs would be in classrooms right now. Instead, they are working to bring their lessons online.

“We will be sharing all of our video content as part of the Growing Together initiative” says Christine Van Poelgeest, Program Assistant for the Growing Chefs Victoria program. “So far this marks our fourth week of releasing our content online. I’m so proud of our team’s willingness and energy to jump into action”. Participating organisations like Growing Chefs, LifeCycles and the Youth Food Network will all be supporting youth to get their hands dirty through this initiative. The secret to a good garden is good soil, and the Compost Education Center is part of the Growing Together team to ensure gardeners are building good compost and soil. “Right now, people are paying attention. They’re curious, they’re asking “how do you compost?” says Cara Gibson, Executive Director of the Victoria Compost Education Center.

“Where else can you get something from nothing? With composting, you start with kitchen scraps, put them all together, do a bit of turning, and in a few weeks or months you have rich, organic, life giving compost”, says Gibson.

As with Growing Chefs, the Compost Education Centre’s typical adult workshops and school programming have moved online. Each of these initiatives also hope to offer some educational videos and resources to the Growing Together clearinghouse. So far, the positive response has been overwhelming, with a few notable exceptions. Says Gibson: “There’s a lot of discussion right now about beginning gardeners growing their own food. And it’s interesting to see some discouraging comments that are surfacing in response to this movement. Comments like ‘Well, the deer are going to eat all your food”. Says Gibson: “I think it’s important to get in front of that kind of messaging, to counter some of this pessimism. We need to empower everyone across our whole community to grow food. Gardeners are the first to know that stuff happens (like deer), but we keep at it, go forward, and supports are in place. I don’t want to sound alarm bells, but if people who work in the fields get ill, then they can’t work. And if there are people who aren’t working at their usual jobs right now, how can we mobilize them to grow their own food?”.

Horticultural therapist Jen Rashleigh agrees. She has helped many brand new gardeners grow food gardens, and her message is simple: “there is a simple truth that we often overlook: nature wants to grow ! If you think about annual vegetables, they have just one short growing season for their entire life cycle: their seed needs to sprout, push through soil, grow a stem and leaves, form flowers, set fruit, and finally ripen their seed. And they have to do all of that in one short growing season. Imagine that!”

“So, if you plant seeds a bit early? Don’t despair…just start again. If chickens come and rip up all your beautiful new pea starts (which they did in my garden), you know what? You plant them again”.

Some folks think that we should just leave growing to the farmers, but Robin Tunnicliffe of Saanich Organics disagrees: “People that try to grow food are our best customers, because they get a sense of the real value of food and also become our biggest advocates.”

Geggie says they have been getting some great suggestions for slogans, like Stay Calm and Grow Food, or Garden Together, six feet apart! To learn more about the initiative check out A huge thank you to the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation, and the Times Colonist Christmas Fund for the generous support through the Rapid Relief Fund.


PRESS CONTACT: Em Bellinger, CRFAIR Communications and Engagement Coordinator
PHONE: 778-678-8450