Victoria councillors look at growing food in city greenhouses

WatchWith some grocery store shelves empty and the typical supply chain slowed, many people are showing more interest in growing their own food. As Jasmine Bala tells us, some Victoria city councillors want to help.

Some Victoria councillors are hoping to help residents produce their own food during the COVID-19 pandemic by growing plant starters in the city’s greenhouses and nurseries.

Councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday have put forward a motion that looks at scaling up Victoria’s “Growing in the City” initiative that encourages urban gardening and food production in residential developments.

“The proposal suggests that we re-prioritize a portion of the capacity within the greenhouses and the nursery to grow food-bearing plants,” said Isitt.

The greenhouses and nurseries are currently used to grow native and ornamental plants.

In their motion, Isitt and Loveday suggest park staff grow seedlings that can then be distributed to residents along with materials like leaf mulch, compost and woodchips.

“We’ve seen a huge outpouring from the public in terms of people who want to get involved in increasing local food security,” Isitt said, “Converting lawn into gardens, growing a few plants on their balconies or their boulevards.”

Plant starters and materials like mulch would make this process easier, according to a Victoria resident who likes gardening.

“It’s so much easier for someone to get started [with that],” said Ryan Del Monaco, who has been growing his own food for some years now. “You just have to build a little box, have a little soil mound in your backyard, put some of those initial plant starts. It makes it more accessible for everyone.”

The proposal also recommends working with stakeholder organizations, such as the Urban Food Table, local farmers and School District 61, to come up with educational resources to help the city with the greenhouse project and assist residents who are growing their own food.

“There’s going to be videos on how to plant them in the ground, how to take care of them over the season as well as giving people opportunities to potentially ask questions on Zoom, [doing] hotlines and different things like that,” said Aaren Topley, a member of the Urban Food Table and the Public Health Association of B.C.

Residents would be able to connect with experts through the Urban Food Table, such as the Compost Education Centre, for guidance and gardening tips.

For instance, when you’re planting a seedling.

“You’re going to dig a little hole, add in some compost if you’ve got it, right into the hole, some water in the hole, and then you’re going to plant your start at the soil level of what that plant was at in the pot,” said Kayla Siefried, site manager and community education coordinator at Compost Education Centre.

These are the kinds of tips you can expect from the experts, and Siefried added that the centre has already begun offering online workshops on things like how to make your own compost and how to grow your own food, as more people ask questions and express interest.

The motion will be discussed at Victoria’s Committee of the Whole Meeting on Thursday.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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