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Sooke seeks to sprout new community gardens

Growing demand for allotment space prompts district investigation
Kevin Pearson

Sooke is digging into the possibility of creating new community gardens in parks or under-used green spaces.

Sooke Region Food CHI, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering awareness and action on food, health, and urban sustainability, and Transition Sooke are driving the initiative to persuade the district to commit to new allotment gardens.

Levi Megenbir, spokesperson for Sooke Region Food CHI, clarified that the groups are not seeking financial assistance from the District of Sooke but rather “space where we can set down roots.”

“We have a large group of volunteers ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to keep this process moving forward,” Megenbir said.

Sooke councillors have directed municipal staff to investigate the necessary procedures for establishing community gardens in the short, medium, and long term.

The demand for more community gardens is increasing in tandem with growing awareness of food sustainability issues, said Coun. Jeff Bateman, highlighting that food security is integrated into council’s strategic plan and the district’s official community plan.

Sooke Region Food CHI and Transition Sooke have identified 13 potential locations for community gardens, with John Phillips Memorial Park and Lot A emerging as the preferred choices.

“There is a significant need for additional community garden space in Sooke,” Megenbir said. “The Sun River Community Garden is currently the sole community garden in the Sooke area, and it is oversubscribed.”

Sooke Region Food CHI and Transition Sooke have devised a two-phase plan: initially, they will establish 50 allotment gardens and 50 square meters of common gardens, yielding over 1,000 lbs. of vegetables annually for the Sooke Food Bank. Subsequently, they plan to expand to 100 allotment gardens and offer educational workshops in collaboration with local non-profits.

Still, some councillors have raised concerns regarding the district’s financial capacity to establish new community gardens, the allocation of staff time for this process, and whether alternative options involving private landowners have been explored.

“There are many unanswered questions,” said Coun. Al Beddows, noting that establishing new gardens entails infrastructure implications such as providing water, soil, hydro, and fencing.

Coun. Kevin Pearson pointed out that discussions about removing parkland are typically met with opposition.

“We have vast tracts of agricultural land that are not being utilized, and it might be more advantageous to engage in a partnership with a local landholder,” he said.

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Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

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