A community that gardens together grows together.
Of the West Coast’s eight communities, Ucluelet is the only one without a community garden, according to the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust’s recently released 2016 Vital Signs report.
Ucluelet’s municipal council tried to get a garden going last year but the two locations they offered up —one near the community’s bike park and another on St. Jacques Blvd.—were both nixed by local opposition and the idea was dropped.
Until now, that is.
Ucluelet locals Jeanne Keith-Ferris and Lorna Watson are hoping to get a food-based community garden going and growing and recently launched the Ucluelet Local Food Society.
“We need to have community gardens in Ucluelet,” Keith-Ferris told the Westerly News.
“We need to have more food security and more food sovereignty here locally.”
The society will hold its first major event, a Fall Festival, on Nov. 6 from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the Ucluelet Community Centre and is currently circulating an online survey to assess the town’s interest in producing food locally. Society members will be at the Ucluelet Co-op handing out surveys in person on Oct. 29.
“We’re hoping to take that data to a municipal [council] meeting and present the ideas and the interests from our community to them,” Keith-Ferris said
She added the society would be reaching out to council to see if any land is available for a community garden.
“I really do believe, even if we’re just walking around the streets and handing out seeds, we’re going to get people to start growing some stuff,” she said. “The curiosity is there. There is a huge interest in this…I’m excited about it. I think the time has come.”
She said the society is also hoping to find some avid local gardeners willing to volunteer to help others get started on growing their own produce.
Food security is a key topic in the CBT’s Vital Signs report, which suggests locals are paying up to 21 per cent more for their groceries than their Port Alberni neighbours and the Food Bank on the Edge is seeing seven new clients per month.
“High food prices is one area that’s going to motivate people immediately because it hits their pocketbook,” Keith-Ferris said.
“We don’t propose to have all the answers. What we’re hoping to do, as we go forward, is to have forums where we get people talking about this and trying to figure out how we can handle some of these problems.”
She said the society’s big-picture goal is to see fridges filled with locally grown vegetables but added the aim is to start slow by simply showing locals what they can grow.
“We’re going to try to act as background cheerleaders,” she said.
“It does take quite a bit of land and energy to grow enough produce for a family of four but, if people can begin, then I think that’s where we have to start with them; just seeing and realizing that it can be done and then they will hopefully be able to start to expand their horizons.”
She added past generations have proven it can be done.
“We all know from just a generation ago, our grandparents, they knew how to do this. They could grow tons of stuff in little areas. I think we need to get people reconnected with those concepts and get them understanding that they do have the ability,” she said.
“Were just going to have to start slowly and work people into this.”
Anyone looking for more information is encouraged to visit the society’s website at www.ukeegrowlocalfood.com.