CHEK Upside: Sidney hotel transforms land into vegetable garden to feed those in need

WatchDespite his business' worst summer season in 45years, Les Tait and his staff at the Cedarwood Inn & Suites have dedicated countless hours to help feed his community's most vulnerable.

Les Tait feels right at home in the garden. He’s owned the Cedarwood Inn & Suites in Sidney for 45 years, usually planting and growing eye-catching flower displays every summer for his guests.

His business is also usually operating at near full capacity in the summer. But, then again, 2020 is far from anything “usual.”

Suffering his worst year in four decades, Tait decided to ditch the roses and tulips and try something else.

“By April, I think we realized it was going to be a non-tourist year, so we decided to cut corners and then we came up with the idea to do vegetables for the food bank,” said Tait.

Despite his business down over 50 per cent since March, the 68-year-old decided to focus on helping out his community rather than his own profit. Along with his son Steven and employee Rosie, Tait converted his land into a field of crops – growing everything from leaks to kale and purple beans.

Everything he grows, he donates to the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank.

“It’s been a treat. I’ll be honest, you know as I say it’s been a happy, fun thing to do. We feel like we’re doing something good, it keeps us out of all-day happy hour I guess,” said Tait.

“It’s wonderful,” said Rosie, a retiree whose husband gave them the idea to donate to the Lions Food Bank.  “I just think it’s super. I hope everyone’s going and getting them and eating them, that’s the main thing.”

Tait spends seven days a week, six hours a day on his new garden project. The team hand-picks the crops, boxes them up and drives them down the road three times a week to the food bank where the veggies are then distributed out to the approximate one thousand monthly users.

“It’s really, really great produce,” said Beverly Elder, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. “People want to eat healthily, but eating healthy isn’t cheap so to be able to come here and get the lovely fresh produce makes a real difference.”

And currently, lining the iconic, oceanview, Lochside Drive entrance to the CedarWood Inn & Suites are dozens of spaghetti squash. It’ll be a few months until they’re prime to eat but they are already Tait’s pride and joy. He says amidst the pandemic, growing and donating food has been his favourite distraction.

“It’s taken a real lousy time and helped us out in doing what we do. I mean, it’s been fun and it’s been great.”

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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