Science has proven that working in a garden is therapy, for the body, and the mind.
It’s why one of the many projects supported by the Victoria Foundation is a community garden in Saanich.
And this garden is welcoming the public at the end of the month, to learn what they do, and why they do it.
Ernie Quantz is a compassionate provincial court judge, well aware of the challenges in Victoria’s downtown core.
“People you might see downtown panhandling are just like you and me” explains Quantz, “and if they’re given the opportunity, they really want to give back to the community.”
In 2010, the Victoria Integrated Court was founded to help those in the court system, who are there for deeper reasons than committing a crime.
Quantz elaborates: “It’s essentially people who are either mentally ill, or addicted, and are regularly involved in the court system, and science tells us that the best way to bring about change in behaviour is… positive engagement in the community.”
Quantz’s wife Ardelle picks up the story…”I’ve always had a great belief in horticulture as a means of therapy, so I said, ‘we need a garden.’ ”
Then the Quantz’s met David Stott, who had the same vision. It took a lot of work, but in 2012, a community garden, Serenity Farm, on land donated by Island Health, took root.
“We have a mixture of people” says Stott, “a lovely mixture I might add, of people…from our participants, who are people who have struggled with various challenges in their lives – addiction issues, mental health issues, things of this nature…and some have been court ordered to do community service…”
Kevin has been a participant in the Garden for four years.
“I like to give back to the community when I can and this is a really good outlet for my energies.” says Kevin.
“I find it’s really helped me relax and learn new skills…”
Another participant, Teresa adds “it’s kinda like a cool place where you belong. It’s hard to explain…there’s no anxiety here.”
One of the volunteers, Sue Patterson, explains why the garden means so much to her. “I have a lot more peace, and calmness.
“You can leave things behind, and just come and enter into the garden.”
Food grown here goes home with the participants, or is sold at a reduced price to volunteers, or donated to the community.
The public is invited to visit Serenity Farm, and meet the volunteers and participants, on Thursday May 26, from noon until 2:00 pm, at their “Welcome to Spring in Our Garden” event.