Vital People: Garden Tour fundraiser for Cowichan Family Life


Jackie and Jim Barker are passionate about their garden.

“What I love about my garden is that it’s fulfilled a dream I had 40 years ago,” Jim Barker explains.

The couple, both retired teachers, have been cultivating their two-acre plot in Cobble Hill for the last four decades.

“My favourite thing is my garden is my wife!” laughs Jim. “When I see her out gardening in the vegetable garden, I get all excited because I know what’s coming for dinner that night—something really good!”

The rest of the garden is Jim’s baby.

He works in it several hours a day, year-round, taking care of the more than 300 rhododendrons and too many flowers to count.

“Really, it’s been his life’s work,” says Jackie.

Their little slice of paradise is one of six Cowichan Valley gardens you can visit in support of Cowichan Family Life, which provides affordable counselling in the valley.

“It’s open to everyone and no one is turned away, even for lack of funds,” says Cowichan Family Life volunteer and garden tour coordinator Tina Short. “And especially with COIVD now, so many people need somebody to talk to.”

Cowichan Family Life has been helping people for more than 50 years and volunteers are encouraging those who might be suffering silently at home to reach out.

“I had the loss of a husband, I’ve had other tragedies, and if I didn’t have anybody to talk to, I don’t know if I’d be here,” says Tina.

Jim’s mother, Evelyn Barker, was one of Cowichan Family Life’s founding members and he says giving back is in his DNA.

“Our family has always believed in service, before most other things,” Jim says. “My father was mayor of Duncan for many years and I was in politics for many years.”

The couple also opened a fund at the Victoria Foundation to support causes close to their heart and leave a lasting legacy.

“Cowichan Family Life is one of the three organizations that our fund gives grants to each year and that will be in perpetuity,” Jackie explains.

They’ve also held big book sales for the last 15 years — raising more than $200,000 for their trust.

“It just feels so good to be helping other people,” Jackie says. “It’s just the greatest feeling.”

The Cowichan Family Life garden tour is Sunday, May 29th and you can get tickets on their website.

Tess van Straaten

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