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Victoria Urban Food-Garden Tour back for second year

Yards, allotments and boulevards show their crops for amateur and seasoned gardeners alike
Pete Rose (right) and son Jasper Helmuth harvest fresh zucchini and carrots from their Oak Bay garden, which will be featured on the 2017 Urban Food-Garden Tour. (Morgan Cross photo)

Morgan Cross / News contributor

The Victoria Urban Food-Garden Tour is back for its second year, featuring 14 inspiring gardens in Greater Victoria.

Participants in the self-guided tour can drive, bike or, courtesy of Oak Bay Bicycles, e-bike their way through some of their favourite locations, discovering stunning gardens and learning how to grow their own produce along the way.

In 2015, the event sold approximately 350 tickets – a number that evoked happy surprise from organizer Elizabeth Vibert. On the morning of the event, one Garden Works ticket location had to request more tickets to keep up with demand.

“The motivation to keep it going every year really came from those people who attended the first time,” said Vibert. “We had older home gardeners that had been growing food forever, and then we had young people who might have had their first shared house or first apartment with a balcony, and wanted to learn how to grow.”

Vibert was initially motivated to organize the tour to promote sustainable food production locally and globally. An associate professor at UVic in the history of poverty, small-scale farmers and food sovereignty, she and Elmarie Roberts of Haliburton Community Organic Farm paired together and developed the idea to raise both awareness and funds with the event. In 2015, gardeners and gardeners-to-be learned how to grow their own crops at home, while money raised went toward Haliburton Community Organic Farm, 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre and the Hleketani Community Garden in Limpopo, South Africa. Funds go to the same three recipients this year. Jelena Putnik joins Vibert and Roberts in organizing.

Vibert partnered with the 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre for this very reason. “A very important piece for me was making the best of summer local produce available to lower income people.”

Similarly, the Hleketani Community Garden in South Africa makes local food available to local people. No Urban Food-Garden Tour took place in 2016 due to the fact that Vibert was at the farm in South Africa during the organization period, conducting an oral project with the farm’s women founders. This project led to the release of the film The Thinking Garden, which was released March 1, 2017.

In South Africa farms face much more frequent drought and pest pressures as a result of climate change, Vibert said.

“Here in Victoria, we can be harvesting food 12 months of the year, so we have no excuse not to be growing,” she said, suggesting homeowners can even grow salad plants on their balconies, if without space.

Oak Bay gardener Pete Rose agrees. His own yard, of a modest size but bursting with fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, will be shown on the tour this September.

“I feel passionately about people growing their own food if they have the opportunity, whether it’s a large or a small space,” he said. Rose has worked in tropical medicine, agriculture and forestry in Africa, which prompted his taking to the Hleketani Community Garden cause.

“I think [when people grow] food in their home gardens, whether that’s a concrete balcony or a large backyard, it makes people much more conscious of the provenance of their food,” Vibert said.

“It’s also incredibly gratifying to pick your own beans or harvest your own lettuce.”

Ticket information and a map of tour spots are available at

Pete Rose harvesting carrots from his Oak Bay garden, which will be featured on the 2017 Urban Food-Garden Tour. (Morgan Cross photo)