Veggie Garden Supports Mental Health Recovery and Feeds Those in Need

September 20, 2012

SAANICH – An innovative community partnership is providing therapeutic food growing opportunities for clients at Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility while also providing fresh produce to the Mustard Seed Food Bank and Our Place.
Feeding Ourselves and Others is a 6,000 square foot garden located at Seven Oaks in the Blenkinsop Valley in Saanich,” explains David Stott, Project Coordinator. “Our gardeners range in age from their 20s to their 60s and they are all overcoming obstacles most of us cannot even begin to imagine — the growing of vegetables, herbs and other plants is helping them along their recovery path.”

The project has been made possible through organizational support from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Victoria Integrated Court and the John Howard Society, together with funding support from the United Way, the Victoria Parks and Recreation Foundation, the Evergreen Foundation, VanCity Credit Union and the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health.

“Recovery from severe mental health and addictions challenges takes many different paths,” said Dr. Ian Musgrave, Clinical Director, Tertiary and ACT Services for the Vancouver Island Health Authority. “Our garden project not only teaches participants valuable food growing skills, it also helps individuals work together and find focus and purpose – all in support of their recovery.”

“This project is a great example of the objectives of the new Victoria Integrated Court by having a variety of people and agencies working together at the community level to solve complex issues which contribute to criminal behavior and offer alternatives for individuals caught up in destructive patterns of behavior,” said Provincial Court Judge, Judge Quantz.

The garden project has a total of 14 participants; five of the gardeners are clients from Seven Oaks and nine are VIHA Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) clients. VIHA’s ACT teams provide services to clients who have mental health and/or addictions issues, behavioural challenges and are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Each gardener is responsible for their own 100 square foot garden.

“We support the gardeners in using intensive organic gardening methods to grow whatever vegetables, herbs and flowers they like,” said Stott. “We also have common garden beds where everything from lettuce and tomatoes to peas and zucchini are grown and shared among all the gardeners, the Mustard Seed Food Bank and Our Place.”

Media Contact:

Shannon Marshall,
VIHA Communications
250-370-8270

Good neighbours: Garden grows more than vegetables

by Jeff Bell, TimesColonist |  AUGUST 26, 2012

Four months after planting, a new garden at the Seven Oaks mental-health facility is bursting with life.

The project got started through a horticultural fund established for the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria with a donation from Ian Back. The first grant went to the John Howard Society to create the Seven Oaks garden, an initiative called Feeding Ourselves and Others.

The Backs created the horticultural fund to give financial assistance to local garden projects. Ian Back said the city is blessed with beautiful gardens and considerable gardening knowledge, but there has been a gap in the availability of money for adding to that legacy.

“My hope is that other garden enthusiasts in Greater Victoria will recognize the benefit of having such a fund and will provide additional capital, so that the horticultural fund can quickly grow to [such] a size that its annual earnings can help to enhance Greater Victoria’s reputation as a city of gardens,” he said.

Foundation president Ann Geddes said the Seven Oaks garden will be presented to the public at an event in September. Details are pending.

“It’s a lively garden, doing good things with people,” she said.
Project co-ordinator David Stott said there are currently 14 people working on the garden, including Seven Oaks residents and people from the downtown area dealing with struggles in their lives. He said the idea is to teach them about nutrition as well as gardening, and to encourage mutual support.

“The activity here is a great way for them to become more engaged in the community,” said Dave Johnson, executive director of the John Howard Society, which works with people who have been in prison or in trouble with the law.

“It’s something that happens on a regular basis, and the staff that they’re working with are able to help maintain the involvement.”

He said the produce from the garden is spread around. There is a variety of vegetables, and plans call for edible native plants to be put in during the fall.

“Some of it goes to the participants,” Johnson said. “A lot of it goes to [Our Place] and also to the Mustard Seed.”

Knowing that they are giving something to the community is a real boost for project participants, Johnson said.

A total of $50,000 has gone into the project so far, including the money from the grant and other donations. It is also being helped along by people with gardening expertise who volunteer their time.

“We hope that this project will become a permanent community facility,” Stott said.