On the Ground: Feeding Ourselves and Others

There’s nothing quite like spending time out in the garden to calm the nerves and soothe the soul.

Something about the combination of fresh air, hard work and creating so much from seemingly so little, is uncommonly satisfying and can be truly healing.

It’s this simple, timeless notion that is driving a unique community-focused program seeking to help those who have trouble finding peace in their everyday lives.

Feeding Ourselves and Others is a therapeutic food growing opportunity for people who have challenges, including mental illness, addictions and/or criminal offences. At a 14,580 square foot garden in the Blenkinsop Valley, participants and volunteers work together to grow all manner of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, tackling the growing process from beginning to end, and reaping the rewards of their harvest.

Christened by participants as Serenity Farm, the humble but flourishing plot is a home away from home for dozens of people.

“We all believe in the therapeutic effects of community gardening, and the importance to people who have perhaps never experienced that before,” said David Stott, Project Coordinator. “The bottom line is it’s a nice way to get out of town, out of the inner core, get some sunshine, learn some skills, feel better about themselves, meet some friends and develop a bit of a community here.”

“It’s been wonderful,” said participant Sue Patterson. “I can feel really depressed, and then I come out here and get into the soil and into the creation, and I’m just rejuvenated.”

Founded in 2011, the program is an independent initiative, sponsored by the John Howard Society, with funding from the Victoria Foundation, Island Health and others, and working with the Victoria Integrated Court and Seven Oaks Tertiary Care Facility, among others.

Aside from the therapeutic benefits, those there because of their involvement with the courts can apply their time worked to community service or probation orders. Stipends are provided for the work and participants are encouraged to take home produce, without charge.

With a quick stroll through the garden you catch sight of juicy apples, bright purple and orange cauliflowers, ripening red and orange tomatoes, squash of all shapes and sizes, rich green cabbages, beautiful blooming flowers and so much more. Several markets now sell produce from the farm, including the Local General Store on Haultain Street.

There is talk of possible expansion and with ongoing funding organizers say Feeding Ourselves and Others will continue to flourish, feeding both body and soul.

To learn more about Feeding Ourselves and Others visit: http://www.feedingourselvesandothers.com/

And watch a Victoria Foundation video of a visit to Serenity Farm here.