Downtown Victoria offers a handful of zero-waste stores, but Saanich residents have to travel to shop there. So what options exist in Saanich for locals who want to reduce the amount of waste they produce via food shopping in the new year?
Jeremy Cardonna, a sessional academic at the University of Victoria in the Human Dimensions of Climate Change program, said buying food from farms in Saanich is a good way to reduce food packaging waste while also supporting local businesses. He said local farms typically use less or no packaging for the food they sell.
Cardonna also said eating seasonal foods as much as possible can help. Food that’s in season, such as root vegetables in winter, is easier to find and grow locally. He said farmer’s markets are another place locals can look for seasonal, locally grown, organic and not packaged produce, though this might still require a car trip.
Another option available to Saanich residents is growing their own food. This can be done on their own properties or at community gardens if they do not have enough space or the right permit to grow the produce they want at home.
One such community garden is the Agnes Street Community Gardens at 621 Agnes St. in Glanford Park. Cathy Wetton, the president of the Agnes Street Gardeners’ Association, said the gardens have been operating for over 40 years since 1976. During that time, Wetton said the area has become more urban and demand for plots in the gardens has risen.
“New gardeners are assigned a 500 square foot plot which requires considerable effort to cultivate, plant, water, weed, and harvest. Successful gardeners can request a second 500 square foot garden plot to grow larger crops,” Wetton said. She said new gardeners pay a one-time $10 membership fee, then $30 per year for the 500 square foot plot or $60 for 1,000 square feet. She said there are rules to follow but gardeners, for the most part, are relatively free to plant the crops they want.
Wetton said there is now a three or more year waitlist for plots at the garden, but they also have a free food table located near the parking lot at Glanford Park. The association asks gardeners to place extra produce on the table rather than throwing it away, and local park users or residents are welcome to take produce for free from the table. For more information, visit agnesstreetgardens.ca/index.html.
Laurie Jones, a long-time coordinator with the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers and the community gardens in Gorge Park, said neighborhood connections can create spaces for local food security including eliminating packaging waste. She said learning how to grow vegetables, supporting local growers, and demanding or encouraging zero waste initiatives could also help reduce the carbon footprint of the food we eat.
Jones noted things that might keep people from buying/growing locally or buying from zero-waste stores include time, transportation, and lack of education about gardening or community initiatives.
She also said Saanich needs more community gardens. Jones said the Gorge Park Community Gardens currently has a waitlist of approximately 50 people, and three years is a good guess at how long that list will take to get through. She said she sees possibilities for more community gardens in parks, on church lands, schools, or paved spaces; it’s just a matter of finding appropriate land and liaising with Saanich and the neighborhood.
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