Planting Vegetable Seeds for a Growing Need

VIU Planting Vegetable Seeds for a Growing Need

Rototilling new field at Cline Agri-health Centre, Nanaimo, BC

April 27, 2020 - 10:30am

VIU Horticulture facility ramps up the cultivation of vegetable starters for Nanaimo Foodshare’s Good Food Box Program.

Vancouver Island University (VIU) has joined with others in the effort to meet the anticipated demand for affordable food during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

VIU’s G.R. Paine Horticultural Training Centre has made space in its greenhouses this spring to grow more seedlings for transplanting into the fertile fields that Nanaimo Foodshare Society uses for vegetable production. 

Planting Vegetable Seeds for a Growing Need

Nanaimo Foodshare grows fruits and vegetables at the City of Nanaimo’s Five Acres Farm in Harewood and the Cline Agri-health Centre near the Millstone River. Since 1997, the society has worked with partners to address hunger in the community, build food growing skills and bring the community together to share resources. Executive Director Jen Cody expects more people will be applying to receive fresh produce at an affordable price through the society’s Good Food Box program, which brings affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to community members. The program recently expanded to twice a month in response to increased demand in the community, due to COVID-19.  

“The pandemic has spotlighted the importance of food security in our community,” says Cody. 

The Society is preparing more land for planting at the Cline Centre to increase production. More land means more veggie starters will be needed and quickly, which is where VIU’s Horticulture program is offering its expertise. Through the new partnership, the Nanaimo Foodshare Society will provide the seeds, growing media and pots, while VIU will provide the growing environment and labour needed to tend to the vegetable starters. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic is putting lives and livelihoods at risk,” says Jessica Gemella, Chair of VIU’s Horticulture program. “The pandemic’s impacts on global food systems is uncertain, but we can take steps locally. This is an opportunity for VIU to support local food production to help the most vulnerable members of our community.”

VIU has a long history of collaborations with the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. Both farms are worksite training locations for participants in VIU’s Workplace Essential Skills Training (WEST) program, which helps students with development and cognitive disabilities who face challenges and barriers to employment. 

Craig Evans, the WEST program’s Worksite Trainer, says the partnership is beneficial for the VIU students involved and for Foodshare. 

Planting Vegetable Seeds for a Growing Need

“Nanaimo Foodshare and Growing Opportunities Coop hires WEST students every summer to help out at the farm, and for many of these students this is their first paying job,” he says. “The farms have established COVID-19 protection protocols established by WorksafeBC and will be hiring again this summer.” 

Planting Vegetable Seeds for a Growing Need

WEST students also help with harvesting the produce in the fall and are involved in selling some of the surplus vegetables.

“As part of the community emergency food response, the partnership with VIU and the support of the Horticulture program ties local agriculture to the solution,” says Cody. “The farms help the Good Food Box keep the cost of food low so we can offer more to families in need, and they also help train youth and people with diverse abilities with the skills to become farmworkers and farmers, that will keep our community food secure today and into the future.”

Photo Caption: Rototilling new field at Cline Agri-health Centre, Nanaimo, BC. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University




 Annette Lucas, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

O: 250.741.2020 | C: 250.618.7296 | E:

Tags: community | Horticulture | Trades and Technology | Teaching and Learning

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