OTTAWA – The growing season is just around the corner and Canada’s City of Gardens is planning more plants to increase local food security amid the coronavirus pandemic.
City councils in Victoria, BC, on Thursday passed a motion to expand a city’s food production program by temporarily reassigning some park department employees to grow 50,000 to 75,000 seedlings to be distributed to residents in May and June.
“These are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary measures,” said Mayor Lisa Helps in the Council meeting. She referred to the action taken by the city during the Great Depression when potatoes were grown in Beacon Hill Park for the orphanage and retirement homes.
“It’s a little different in the 21st century, but I think it’s a little thing that employees and residents can do together,” said Helps.
Ornamental horticulture, for example for the city’s orca flower exhibition, will continue. But the number of decorative hanging baskets will be reduced by 20 percent in the city. These resources will be directed to the food security project.
Screenshot of the Victoria City Council process on April 2, 2020.
Count. Jeremy Loveday, one of two councilors behind the motion, told HuffPost Canada that food security is a top priority in Victoria “because we’re on an island and have limited amounts of food and limited amounts of locally grown food.”
Loveday said the provincial government has assured residents that supply chains are intact amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the gravity of the situation has forced him and some neighbors to be more proactive in the garden this year, he said.
“I think this crisis brought people a little more to mind and they want to help a little more in growing their own food.”
In the 1950s, the farmers of Vancouver Island were responsible for 85 percent food supply in the region, according to the roundtable on food and agriculture initiatives in the capital region. But in the early hours of the morning the food imports had increased to 85 percent.
City officials are currently in discussions with farmers and seed libraries to create a shortlist of easy-to-grow edible plants that are ideal for the home garden. Loveday suggested kale and Swiss chard as examples of leafy vegetables that thrive in Victoria’s climate.
Observe: Garden centers see more people interested in vegetable gardens. The story continues below the video.
Count. Geoff Young denied the request, citing concerns that reallocating city staff to temporary farmers would not make a “significant contribution” to the city’s food supply.
The seedlings are expected to grow in urban nurseries and greenhouses until ready for distribution. With their free plants, the residents receive some leaf mulch, compost or wood chips along with some soil. Educational resources, including guides for inexperienced gardeners, are also provided.
With the province’s K-12 classes suspended in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, city officials are also looking into live streaming tutorials for greenhouses to teach children, teens and adults how to garden at home.
‘Huge’ support for exercise
Lush boulevards, some with flower blooms and the occasional edible greens, are not a strange sight in the west coast city. That’s because the city’s statutes were changed a few years ago to make this possible Boulevard gardening on public property.
“We’ve laid the foundation for several years,” said Coun. said Ben Isitt in an interview. The food growing season in Canada is apparently short, he said, but Vancouver Island has a slightly longer season because of the temperate climate.
Isitt worked with Loveday on the request for an increase “Community resilience and food security. ”He said the last time the city ramped up food production was during World War II when supplies were a problem due to the Great Depression.
“This will be the first time in about three quarters of a century that the city has been directly involved in the cultivation of food,” said Isitt.
He said the current COVID-19 situation has fueled residents renewed interest in how to make their communities more resilient in the face of a public health and economic crisis.
Medical staff prepare to assess people for a novel coronavirus disease at the Victoria Public Health Unit in Victoria, BC, on March 17, 2020.
Panic buying in mid-March saw flour, rice, noodles and some canned food being cleared from grocery store shelves, Isitt said. “In the more affluent neighborhoods, it seemed like products were in short supply and were being replenished but would run out quickly.”
Since grassroots organizations have already grown around community gardening, he said the interest was already there and the proposal was getting “huge” support from the public.
“I would like to encourage all communities to examine what they can do to make their communities more sustainable and more resilient to the challenges of the future.”