Council extends COVID-19 food-security plan
On Oct. 1, Victoria’s City Council passed a motion to make Victoria’s newest urban-farming initiative “Get Growing, Victoria!” a permanent program. The multi-level initiative focuses on providing public and private land for urban farming and seedling start-ups.
The program works alongside over 40 non-profit and community partners to coordinate volunteers and develop effective bylaws to allow for small-scale farming in urban areas.
Get Growing emerged from the fears about Vancouver Island’s food security that were raised in the early days of COVID-19.
“Being on an island there is already heightened concerns about food security,” says city councillor and co-founder of the program Jeremy Loveday.
Alongside the food policy group Urban Food Table, city councillors Loveday and Ben Isitt proposed that the city play a more active role in growing food.
“Our official community plan, which was adopted in 2012, had very strong language around promoting food security and growing food locally but that language wasn’t turned into action for a few years and now within the last two terms of council there has been really great progress,” said Loveday.
The city launched the project in April 2020 and quickly organized seed and seedling distribution networks to marginalized communities facing food security concerns.
Through the program, many City greenhouses have been used to grow seedlings for distribution, allowing new growers to skip the difficult tasks of seed germination. The spring/summer distribution period saw the growing of 17 different vegetables and herbs, including cucumbers, zucchini, squash, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and mustard mixed greens. With the fall/winter period approaching, the program will reduce its seedling distribution to 10 hardy vegetables and herbs such as lettuce, kale, peas, purple sprouting broccoli and green onions.
Get Growing also works to provide supplies such as mulch for new growers alongside instructional videos to help make sure planting is successful. The City’s website for Get Growing also has a number of resources for first-time growers such as guidelines for minimizing pesticide use, selling at local public markets, and connecting with community partners that offer programs and aid growers.
Since its conception, the program has successfully distributed over 80 000 seedlings to communities around Victoria. The program has spurred on growing interest from other municipalities across Canada. Due to the success and interest in the program, City Council voted to make the program permanent.
Though the full report on the program’s numbers will not be released until the end of October, Loveday is optimistic about its current and future success.
“Food security is an issue of vital importance to our community,” said Loveday. “I think the municipalities have an important role in helping to ensure that we are enhancing local food systems and improving food security, and all of that work is reliant on partnership with residents who have a shared interest and passion.”
To learn more or get involved in the program, you can visit the City of Victoria’s website.