Ucluelet Local Food Society co-founder Jeanne Keith-Ferris shows her excitement for a future community garden that’s growing at Edna Batchelor Park. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Ucluelet’s first community garden close to completion

“Others have gone before us to try to do this and we’re actually bringing it down to the end zone.”

A community garden is getting ready to bloom at Ucluelet’s Edna Batchelor Park.

The communal food-growing space has been a long time coming with several past attempts drying out before Ucluelet’s municipal council got behind an initiative pitched by the Ucluelet Local Food Society in the winter of 2016.

“Others have gone before us to try to do this and we’re actually bringing it down to the end zone,” said ULFS co-founder Jeanne Keith-Ferris. “It does take persistence and there’s been a number of hoops for us to get through, but we’ve managed it and we’re thrilled.”

Keith-Ferris and Lorna Watson launched the society with a key focus on bringing a community garden to Ucluelet, which, according to the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust’s 2016 Vital Signs Report, was the only one of the West Coast’s eight communities that didn’t have one.

“The Ucluelet Local Food Society feels it’s vital to get people with hands on growing vegetable experience just like our grandparents and great grandparents used to do, with ease, so that we can bring back this knowledge and get it thriving in our community,” Keith-Ferris said.

She said the West Coast’s climate allows for a diverse range of produce.

“We can grow a lot of cold weather crops, like kale and broccoli. Those kinds of things grow really really well,” she said. “Peas and beans thrive in this environment. Lettuces do really well and, surprisingly, we can get some warm weather things happening too, like tomatoes and cucumbers.”

Ucluelet’s council endorsed the garden project in February of this year following recommendations from Parks and Recreation Director Abby Fortune and Planner 1 John Towgood who both cited Edna Batchelor Park as a prime location for the project. The district quickly got started on prepping the site and their share of the work will wrap up this month, according to Keith-Ferris.

“Then, we will be moving in with some volunteers: finishing off the fence work, building the growing beds, adding the dirt and getting ready to invite gardeners to come in and grow,” she said. “I’m really excited for all the possibilities.”

The Ucluelet Co-op donated a garden shed. Wood and other material for the individual growing beds was donated by Windsor Plywood. Concrete was donated by Pacific Ready-Mix and the Ukee Rent-It Centre donated the use of an auger to place fence posts.

“With our wonderful community, it’s coming together,” Keith-Ferris said adding planting beds should be ready for gardeners to start digging into in September.

She said the plan is to have 10 beds for community members to sign up for.

“We will invite them to help us structure what it’s going to look like going forward,” she said adding she expects to see a wide variety of experience levels and newbies are welcome.

Anyone looking to get involved is encouraged to check out www.ukeegrowlocalfood.com or contact: Keith-Ferris directly at 250-726-4249 or jmkferris@gmail.com.

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