In a reversal of a Greenways Trust decision earlier this week, the provincial government has declared community gardens and other food production services to be essential to the functioning of society, and that they must remain open provided they can ensure the safety of people using them.
The Mirror had previously reported on the decision by Greenways to close its two gardens in Campbell River. However, during an announcement on Thursday morning, the province included all food production and distribution businesses, including those run by volunteers, on a list of essential services. The list also includes things like farmers markets, subsistence agriculture as well as more industrial forms of agriculture.
“That means that from our side we have to set up measures having water in place to wash hands, providing gloves, disposable towels and soap and stuff so that we can supply people with the safety measures that they can use their garden without being in danger of catching the virus,” said Greenways Trust spokesperson Lydia Stratemann.
Stratemann said that it would take some time for Greenways to be able to ensure the safety of their gardeners, but that since it is only March, the demand will not be there until later in the year. Greenways will be coordinating with city operations workers to ensure a water supply can reach the gardens, and they will be working on making sure proper safety measures can be in place.
“There is no running water at this point, basically we need to fix that first, put up sinks, buy all the essentials that were listed earlier,” she said. “Even getting hand sanitizer will be a challenge, but that’s a good problem to have.”
Gardening is more than just about growing flowers and food. Stratemann explained that many of the responses she had received about the initial closure were of disappointment.
“It’s something that is really really close to people’s hearts. It’s a kind of therapy I feel,” She said. “It’s people’s happy place and we have to take that very seriously.”
She is not expecting many flowers this year in the plots, however. The provincial government’s announcement is strictly about food production and ensuring the food security of communities around the province.
“I know so many people who are using the chance to tackle their gardens,” Stratemann said. “There are so many people who are using this extra time to build garden beds. We’re on an island, and who knows what can happen. It is a good thing to know how to grow food and dig into it, learn and have some food additionally to what we buy in the stores.”
Two other community gardening locations in Campbell River are not run by Greenways Trust. The garden in Campbellton has posted on Facebook reminding people to stay safe while gardening. The Comox Strathcona Garden Education Centre continues to be closed until further notice, according to their website.
Other essential services include health care, law enforcement and public safety, vulnerable population service providers, infrastructure service providers, transportation and infrastructure, sanitation, communications and IT, and non-health essential service providers. A detailed list of industries can be found on the B.C. government website.