Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Organic Victoria

One of the delightful things about Victoria is that it is surrounded by small farms and orchards, easily accessible and full of potential yumminess. Some of these are well-known, others are hidden secrets waiting to be discovered. I asked some of our local homeschooling families about where they like to access local produce and other goods, as knowing where your food comes from is mighty educational.

This seems to be a topic people are passionate about as I received a number of helpful replies and these are compiled below. Thanks to everyone who contributed their great ideas!

Organic Islands Festival

This two-day outdoor "green" festival provides a venue for the public to interact with folks on the cutting edge of sustainable living. There are great acts (like Hannah Georgas), great speakers (like Victoria's own Carolyn Harriot), and great exhibitions and products.

Island Farm Fresh

Island Farm Fresh is a directory of local direct-buy farms. You can check out the website and also download the print directory. The website is updated frequently and let's you know what's in season and where you can get it. The print guide is available at several locations, including community recreation centres.

Some of the farms recommended by homeschooling families are:

LifeCycles Good Food Directory

The Vancouver Island Good Food Directory is a website whose purpose is to "help people on Vancouver Island connect with local farmers, producers, and processors of local food". You can browse the site by product, type of service, or by farming practices. In addition, you can open an account to record your family's "food miles".

Edible British Columbia

Edible British Columbia is another website that provides an abundance of information about BC's fantastic food scene.

Food Roots and Pocket Markets

Food Roots is a non-profit organization that promotes "a local sustainable food system by creating the infrastructure link between the eaters/consumers and the growers and processors in our region".

Mr. Organics Educational Programs

Mr. Organics, Dave Friend, offers both school and civilian programs that promote organic and environmentally friendly businesses. He offers farm tours through his "Organic Journeys" program, which can be custom tailored to the needs of your group or family.

Seedy Saturday

Each February, James Bay Market hosts Seedy Saturday at the Victoria Conference Centre. You can swap seeds, buy seeds, purchase plants and bulbs, and so much more.

Farmers' Markets

There are a number of farmers' markets in the area and they are all bursting with wonderful produce and other wares. You can find a full listing of Southern Vancouver Island Farmers' Markets on the FarmFresh website.

Favourites include:

If you feel like taking a day trip to one of the Gulf Islands, both Pender Island and Salt Spring Island have recommended Farmers' Markets.

Good Food Boxes

Several locations in town seem to be participating in the Good Food Box program. This is the description of the program from the website:
We are a non-profit alternative food distribution system that facilitates access for all communities to high quality produce. We prioritize purchasing from local and regional farmers using sustainable farming practices. Our prices are approximately 50% of what it would cost at a grocery store for the same amount of produce.
The option to buy a box is open to anyone who wants to, regardless of level of need. The online brochure lists local participating agencies where you can make arrangements to get a box.

Other Produce Box Options

Organic Delivery Services

There are a few options for organic delivery in the Victoria area.

SPUD - Small Potatoes Urban Delivery. SPUD has been around since 1995 and has locations in several cities on the West Coast. Their produce is not always local, but they do let you know where things come from and how far they've travelled to get to you.

Share Organics - Share has been operating in the Victoria area since 1997. They provide fresh produce boxes year round, with a "local only" option available for 6 months of the year.

Saanich Organics - "Our farmer-run box delivery program is the way we provide local, certified (or transitional) organic produce to Victoria families year round."

If you know of another delivery service, please feel free to share it in the comments. Thanks.

Grocery Stores - local and organic

There is a bit of "buyer beware" to this section as not all stores have the same commitment to sourcing locally. They are all, however, small Canadian-based businesses.

Where to Go to Get Your Hands Dirty

SOIL (Stewards of Irreplaceable Land): "SOIL links Canadian farmers willing to take on and train apprentices with folks wanting to work and learn on an organic farm using sustainable practices. We aim to create apprenticeships which transfer lasting knowledge to both the farmer and the apprentice.

Glendale Gardens (Master Gardener programs)

The Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre is a great place to learn about composting and for picking up everything you need to begin your own composting set-up (including vermi-composting). They also offer adult classes on Urban Homesteading and Sustainable Home & Garden, as well as classes for kids.

Local Food Blogs

Heidi Fink is a chef who once worked for the Rebar. Her new blog is a fantastic mix of cooking tips, recipes, and restaurant recommendations. She also runs cooking classes and I know a few people who have participated and quite enjoyed themselves.

Get Fresh... with the locals is a relatively new site that showcases different local food sources on its blog. The blog writers go on "Get Fresh Field Trips" to different vendors and then tell you all about it. It's a mouth-watering read and they seem to be filling their mandate to connect "eaters with growers, producers, suppliers and supporters of fresh, local foods."


These restaurants make a point of offering locally grown foods on their menus:

Recommended Reading

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Ecoholic by Adria Vasil

The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

The Zero-Mile Diet by Carolyn Harriot (local author)


If you have anything to add to the above, please let us know in the comments. We'd love to add it to the list.