CHEK Upside: Huntingdon Manor Hotel unveils ‘Dr. Bonnie Henry Commemorative Garden’ in James Bay

WatchThe community garden is used by James Bay residents who were hit particularly hard by the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

A few months back, Julia Canton and the staff at the historic Huntingdon Manor Hotel in James Bay had an idea: loan their land for the greater good.

Flash forward to today’s unveiling ceremony, and the Dr. Bonnie Henry Commemorative Garden is full of all kinds of fruits and vegetables.

“It feels absolutely wonderful. I think the gardeners we have here have done an absolutely amazing job,” said Canton, the Huntingdon Manor Hotel’s Sustainability Manager.

The garden was a total team effort.

The hotel first partnered with the James Bay Neighborhood Association, then businesses donated materials when necessary and the twelve garden plots were donated by the Food Eco District, a non-profit organization that focuses on food sustainability in urban areas.

Huntingdon Manor then made a contest to find 12 James Bay residents to tend to the garden plots. The hotel selected people who were particularly hit hard by the pandemic.

Peggy Harding, a James Bay area senior was one of the gardeners on hand. She says the garden has given her chard, kale and tomatoes. But perhaps most important, watering and tending to her plot has given her a new sense of purpose.

“It gives me somewhere to go every day, come up and check my garden and I can walk and ride my bike and it’s given me greens. I’ve been eating greens almost daily for weeks now,” said Harding.

Meanwhile, a few plots down, tourism industry worker Byron Dwyer says gardening has been a great outlet in a tough time.

“I work in tourism and my wife works in tourism and as many people know tourism has been impacted in Victoria pretty hard,” said Dwyer.

Dwyer entered the contest with no previous gardening experience but has successfully grown peppers, snow peas, tomatoes, strawberries and kale.

“Having the garden in James Bay has helped me out a lot. It has had a huge impact on me and my grocery bills.”

And stories like that are why the over 100-year-old hotel wanted to help out its neighbours.

“Oh it warms our heart, like, that was the whole purpose of the garden was to help our community, help people feel better in a very difficult year so it’s the best feeling in the world really,” said Canton.

Huntingdon Manor Hotel plans to keep the garden going beyond the pandemic, and hopes to add more plots in the future.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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