Dennis Ohalloran shows off produce he grew at Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility on Blenkinsop Road. Ohalloran is one of 14 people who grew vegetables as a part of Feeding Ourselves and Others

Health and healing in the garden

Every Tuesday and Thursday since May, Dennis Ohalloran has gotten his hands dirty, tending to a veggie patch in the Blenkinsop Valley.

Every Tuesday and Thursday since May, Dennis Ohalloran has gotten his hands dirty, tending to a veggie patch in the Blenkinsop Valley.

When his mental health worker suggested gardening, he was skeptical, despite its proven benefits for those with mental illness.

“I thought she was crazy,” said Ohalloran outside his 30-square-metre plot of cucumbers, radishes, beans, peas,and lettuce. “I thought it was pretty weird, then I came and did it and now I love growing vegetables.”

Ohalloran is one of nine Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) clients – people facing mental health and/or addictions issues and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – who, along with five clients of Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility, have grown vegetables at Blenkinsop Road farm as a part of the Feeding Ourselves and Others project over the summer.

The project was funded through an initial $50,000 provided by the United Way, the Victoria Parks and Recreation Foundation, the Evergreen Foundation, VanCity Credit Union and the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health, along with organizational support from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Victoria Integrated Court and the John Howard Society.

“Provincial psychiatric hospitals were well known for having farming and animal husbandry and an opportunity to grow their own food and to create opportunities for their patients and their staff in somewhat of a therapeutic milieu, a work therapy milieu if you will. We’re proud to be able to continue that tradition,” said Dr. Ian Musgrave, clinical director of Tertiary and ACT Services for the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

“Farming and getting your hands in the soil continues to be a real legacy of horticultural therapy. It’s wonderful to see Seven Oaks getting into that.”

Gardeners range in age from their 20s to their 60s and they are all overcoming obstacles most of us cannot even begin to imagine, said project co-ordinator David Stott.

“So many contributions have been made,” said Stott, noting the donation of gardening tools and equipment. “Perhaps most importantly time was contributed as well as advice, and especially the time of the participants.”

Provincial Court judge Ernie Quantz championed the idea for the project through his involvement with the Victoria Integrated Court.

“This is very much a community initiative,” Stott said. “It’s not just a Seven Oaks initiative. It’s not just a John Howard initiative. It’s not just an Integrated Court initiative. It’s everyone’s initiative and that’s why I feel really fortunate to be a part of this.”

Ohalloran, who lives downtown, plans to continue his visits to the valley next year – an endeavour that affords him therapeutic afternoons in rural Saanich and fresh salads at home, while providing additional fresh food to the Mustard Seed Food Bank and Our Place.



Just Posted

Major expansion coming to Royal Bay Secondary

Province will build space for 600 more students on same site

Colwood wins Victoria Flower Count for a five-peat

The 43rd annual Flower Count had over three billion blossoms counted in total

Langford fundraiser for kidney disease is a success

Maureen Hobbs thinks B.C. Transplant says it best: “Live life. Pass it on.”

West Shore municipalities eye mass notification system

System would send out info via text, email or phone call in an emergency

Moving fire dispatch services will save taxpayers thousands, say mayors

Transition will save about $1.5 million over the next five years

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 16, 2018

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

RV David Thompson unveiled in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Parks Canada research vessel part of billion-dollar environmental investment

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

Dead rabbits found at Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds stoke concerns about Nanaimo virus

A B.C. wildlife veterinarian says a few of the dead bunnies will be sent for diagnosis next week.

Most Read