The Sunriver Community Garden is a haven for many of the volunteers.

The Sunriver Community Garden is a haven for many of the volunteers.

Finding a calm place amidst busy life

Sooke's Sunriver Community Garden seeking new volunteers

Teaching and a calm place in the middle of life’s toils and troubles is what the Sunriver Community Garden is all about.

“I love to get out and enjoy the awesomeness,” said Chef and volunteer Ronald Smith. “It is teaching me a lot. It lifts up my spirits for sure.”

His comments are similar to Patricia Whitley’s. When asked what volunteering at the garden means to her, she said, “It is sanity in the middle of chaos. When I walk through the gate I’m grounded.”

Both Smith and Whitley were at the garden on a fine spring day helping prepare chard and other greens for distribution. The first crops of the year are destined for one of the many service agencies in Sooke.

Each year the community garden provides over 3,000 pounds of produce for groups such as: Meals on Wheels, the Sooke Food Bank, church meal programs, the Crisis Centre and the Sooke Family Resource Society.

The produce comes from the Grow a Row program coordinated by Paula McCormick. Grow a Row actually means grow a row for someone else.

The allotment garden has over 90 plots where locals grow whatever they want. People personalize their plots and families come together to dig in the dirt and watch their plants grow. Part of food security is to get people to taste real food, fresh food grown and enjoyed.

The community garden is also a healing place. It is, like Whitley states, a calming place.

Organizer and member Phoebe Dunbar and the board of the non-profit society are putting out the call for volunteers. The garden is open to anyone and everyone in the Sooke area. Perhaps you just want to pull a few weeds, get some fresh air, meet some new folks or help with the Grow a Row program. There’s lots to keep anyone as busy as they want to be. Lawns need mowing, gardens need weeding and watering, firewood needs cutting, and a handyman would be very helpful.

The SRG has been a great example of what can be done with volunteers and a few donations. Sheds, gazebos, water features and healing plant gardens have all been built. Just recently the SRG was given a grant of $1,300 from the Victoria Parks and Recreation Horticulture Foundation to build a tool shed. The students from the Edward Milne community school TASK program built it.

“They are amazing,” said Dunbar.

The community garden now also has an old shipyard boiler  which will be used for a root cellar, and a fish cleaning plant which is vermin and pest free. Both were donated by Maywell Wickheim from Sooke Marine Industries.  A grant from Rotary will help build the orchard root cellar. Three stainless steel cleaning sinks mean vegetables can be cleaned thoroughly. Community support has helped shape the gardens to what they are now.

Started in 2009, the 2.5 acre site has expanded to fill most of the space. There are quiet spaces and active spaces. The gazebo is a gathering spot for all manner of functions from lunches to meetings, work bees to simple sitting around chatting. A cob oven can be used for firing pizzas or breads.

Community is what the garden is all about. Dunbar said she would be available on Wednesday afternoons to help orient anyone who may be interested in volunteering, or perhaps even getting their own plot.

Contact Paula at 250-642-5572 or Phoebe at 250-642-4342 or drop down for an orientation any Wednesday or Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m.

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