Shame On You, UVic

View Larger Map I left the matinee of Collapse up at UVic with one prevalent thought: grow food on arable land-- moreso, grow it on land that people can get to-- don't put my pepper plants in Mexico: give me greenhouse space. Surely, don't truck my potatoes from California: these are bulky, heavy, low value staples. You can also grow them from the 49° south almost any time of the year. I walked across the lawns of UVic-- manicured tracts of great land enjoyed by rabbits and starving students alike.

Last Fall, we were really lucky to be able to go to Sooke Harbour House. It was an inspirational experiment. In some real life version of the Wonka Chocolate factory, most of the plants are edible. A terrific and expert gardener led us around the lands, tearing off leaves, flowers, berries and flora of all kinds. "Eat it," she said. We complied-- flowers that tastes like cherries; a 15' tall bay leaf tree; patios were divided by rosemary bushes and fennel plants. We could eat the grounds-- so could the wildlife. In nature you have Hobson's Choice for what's available. On our properties, we have lattitude: we can grow what we want.
IMG_3484 Why are lands for the intelligencia barren but for the manicured weeds of cropped grass and shrubberies. It turns out UVic does sequester a little part of the lands for feeding people. To the North of the Centennial Stadium there is a patch of land for the UVic Community Gardens. That is, "for now": UVic plans on evicting the Campus Community Garden so make room for another building (though classrooms are not likely-- UVic found that students really don't have as much cash or clout as corporations and government). It's bad enough that UVic can't count above six when building floors into new buildings (build up-- we've been able to that since the 1800s-- it allows for density vs. sprawl). UVic doesn't need to go after the low hanging fruit of the community gardens.
If UVic doesn't completely do away with using arable lands for food, they could move the gardens to one of the other massive tracts of land they have available. In reality, UVic should quadruple the amount of land open for individual gardening-- why can't a student living in residence have a blackberry bush or a row of carrots? In this world run amok with Green and 100 Mile Diets and Carbon Neutral, why is UVic bogarting all of this green space?
If the UVic powers-that-be relocate the gardens and fail to expand them, there are definitely bad locations that could be used that would be out-of-sight out-of-mind. For example, to the South East, past a stand of trees I found last year, there is a big chunk of space likely enjoyed by deer and the rare cougar. This chunk is remote. There's no electricity, there's no running water. The locale only fit for being a grow-op, a body dump, and/or maybe a dorm. The people would have to trek through the forest. There is a service road labelled liberally with "NO UNAUTHORIZED VEHICLES ALLOWED" signed. I doubt that handicapped access would be viable unless the handicapped have a wheelchair made by Hummer.
I know that UVic wants to think they own the lands. I know students want to tell you the university is funded by their tuitions. In truth, taxpayers heavily subsidize post secondary education. The tens of thousands of tax dollars I shell out every year go into the coffers of the govenment who, in turn, dole it out to places like UVic. These are my lands and I don't like what some overpriced academics are doing with my money and my land.
UVic needs to stop. They need to think about what they're doing with the lands they hold. Below is a letter from the site coordinataor of the UVic Campus Community Garden. UVic is planning on doing away with the gardens. I ask that you take a minute to read her call for support. I need you to spend a few minutes in support of the plan to keep the Campus Community Gardens in play. If you're caught up in this Green wave-- if you bicycle for the planet; or take recyclable bags to Thrity's; or drive a Prius; or turn off your lights to save electricity-- if you do any of these, then this needs to be your cause, too.
Personally, I feel UVic needs to take this moment as a moment of clarity. They need to come out of their stupor and expand the lands devoted to the community gardens. They need to ask whether tracts of short green weeds mowed time and again by gas-powered mowers is the ideal practice. They need to ask why their students live in dorms on ramen noodles when the lands could feed a decent share of the student population. If UVic doesn't look out the window and see the lands with new eyes, then their lip service to sustainability is a sham.
Subject: UVic Campus Community Garden needs your support

My name is Ada Saab. I am the site coordinator of the UVic Campus Community Garden. We are requesting your support. We have been growing food on campus garden for thirteen years and have resided in the same location off Mackenzie Avenue for this entire time. We've watched both the Enterprise Data Centre and the Technology Enterprise Facility build on either side of us while the parking lot welcomed more and more traffic. Recently we have been notified that at the end of our Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Victoria, on October 2011, we are evicted. However, our new location is still unknown.

There is very little space on our campus any longer. Priorities for development are becoming clear as the management plans to maintain a compact campus by the use of specific building sites within or near Ring Road. Among the list of items to redevelop (including lawn areas, parking lots and lower scale buildings) is our garden.

This spring, there will be a Campus Plan Committee meeting. Neil Connelly, from UVic's Sustainability Office, will be offering a proposal to include our gardens in the master plan for use of the university-owned CJVI property on Cedar Hill Cross Rd, know as Cedar Hill Corner. According to the university, potential uses include academic expansion, faculty and student housing, sports and recreational facilities, parking and other special opportunities. Another alternative is a triangle area of land off of McKenzie Avenue by the rugby fields, a highly visible location with no concrete building plans.
We are concerned there is no mention of the garden in the current UVic Campus Plan and that the university may not deem our space as an important university asset. As a result, we are requesting your support to show UVic Vice-President Finance & Operations that sustainability and education includes the UVic Campus Community Garden. Fill in the appropriate areas of this attached letter or compose your own and send it to Gayle Gorrill, VP Finance & Operations> , to Neil Connelly, Sustainability Office at, and copy the Community Garden executive so we can be aware of your support, at

I have attached our letter of support to this email however, it is also included below.


Ada Saab
Site Coordinator
Campus Community Garden
University of Victoria

Sample letter of support:
I am writing this letter as a member of the University community to express my support for the UVic Campus Community Garden.
Students, faculty and staff were recently informed of a plan to move the gardens from its current location in parking lot 7 to an undetermined site. I understand that as the university grows there is increased pressure for new developments that are in line with the 2003 Campus Plan and strategic objectives of the university.
I am concerned, however, that without university support and resources for such a move and a process to collaboratively determine a new site, the community gardens may be in jeopardy.
As a [professor /student/employee] the community gardens have provided me with [teaching space/ growing space/ learning opportunities]. Not only does the community garden help me achieve my personal [teaching/learning] goals, it also helps achieve many of the goals set out in the university’s strategic plan.
The community garden contributes to the “broader learning environment” of the university by providing a community meeting place. By bringing students, faculty, and staff together the garden acts as a node for social networking and enhances the sense of community between university users. Over the past decade, the University has showcased the Community Gardens in a number of websites, publications and tours, contributing to student and faculty recruitment and its reputation as a green campus.
The gardens provide an opportunity for students to participate in experiential learning opportunities and become involved in the university community. The garden has been used extensively in this capacity by the school of Environmental Studies, Department of Women’s Studies and the School of Nursing, and new partnerships are being explored with other university departments.
In order for the community garden to continue contributing to vibrant and healthy campus, a new site must be located and funding must allocated for relocation before the development of parking lot 7 commences. I urge you to support finding an appropriate new site and funds to help the community garden move through this transition smoothly.


Anonymous said…
The land should be left as is. It's hard enough for students to survive. Give them the chance to grow their own food and save money and the environment.

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