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Our Community: Historic Central Saanich farm feeds most vulnerable

Don Caverley, board chair of the Farmlands Trust Society, which grows and donates produce to Our Place Society. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A not-for-profit society has grown and donated close to 41,000 kilograms of produce in seven years to Victoria’s most vulnerable as it returns a 107-year-old farm to active agricultural use.

The Farmlands Trust Society, whose mission is to enhance farming in Greater Victoria, has been growing produce on the grounds of Saanichton’s historic Newman Farm since 2014.

The 16.5- acre property was donated to the District of Central Saanich in 2003, about three years after the deaths of last two surviving members of the Newman family.

The land, originally purchased in the 1890s, is northeast of Saanichton. The original parcel at one time extended from Old V South Road to the waterfront to the east. It was farmed actively until 1996.

The society became involved with returning the property to active farming in 2012. Three years later, the Farmlands Trust Society signed a 10-year agreement with the district to continue using the land for agriculture.

Volunteers grow 22 varieties of fruit, herbs and vegetables in the field and in 32 raised beds. The organically cultivated produce is picked weekly for delivery to Our Place, where it is prepared to help feed the city’s most vulnerable.

“With the rising cost of food and heightened demand for services, the contributions by Farmlands Trust Society is appreciated more than ever,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications at Our Place. “As we continue to see more faces at the table, we are grateful for the society’s generous support.”

The society is the largest single supplier of produce to Our Place in the summer and fall. Its produce goes into more than 1,200 daily meals and snacks.

In 2021, the group donated more than 7,800 kilograms of produce with a value of $62,000. The value of the fruit and vegetables donated since 2014 is estimated to be more than $240,000.

Bike ride and walk helps Kenyan students

Join an all-ages walk or bike ride in the Comox Valley to raise funds for the education of poor students in Kenya. The event, on Sept. 24, starts at Seal Bay Park in Courtenay.

Alinda Ware, a retired teacher, local volunteer and Rotarian, is the co-founder of Kenya Education Endowment Fund, a B.C.-based charity supporting the East African students.

The 40-kilometre flagged bike route will follow Ware’s life – past her childhood home, school and other locations. Cyclists can also do a 35-kilometre side trip up Mount Washington. Others can enjoy walking a distance of their choice on the wooded trails of Seal Bay Park.

Registration is by donation, online in advance or at the park on the day of the ride. The ride and walk starts at 10 a.m. at the Bates Road trailhead entrance to Seal Bay Park.

Donations can be e-transferred to or mailed to KEEF, c/o 1230 Saturna Drive, Parksville, V9P 2X5.

All donations are eligible for tax receipts. Specify on your donation that it is for Alinda’s Ride/Walk.

For more information, go to, or 250-702-0613.

Climate action workshops set up for Saanich residents

Saanich is offering a free online Climate Action Workshop Series for its residents this fall, offering ideas and practical tips.

Learn from Saanich staff and expert guests how to make your transportation, home, yard and purchases more climate-friendly. Participants will also learn about tools and rebates available.

Workshop topics include an introduction to preparing your own climate action plan, planting for climate resilience and biodiversity in your yard, active and public transportation, electric vehicles and charging, climate-friendly home renovations and emergency preparedness.

The series will run from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday evenings from Sept. 20 to Nov. 1.

For more information and to register, visit

Block party celebrates Esquimalt church mural

Esquimalt United Church is celebrating a vibrant new mural along its Lyall Street wall with a block party on Sun. Sept. 25.

The event features a street dance for all ages led by the Neighbourhood Hootenanny Time Machine – including Brooke Maxwell on piano/vocals, Chris Frye on guitar/vocals, Peter Dowse on bass, and Matt Pease on drums.

Music will be all-ages favourites, 50s rock and singalong hits — something for everyone.

The mural, painted by Esquimalt artist Kris Friesen, depicts the Esquimalt community, stressing themes of inclusively, sharing and caring for the environment.

Admission is free (donations welcome) with refreshments available. The event starts at 2 p.m. by the mural on Lyall Street.

For more information, go to

Courses on speechreading and sign language offered

The Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre is offering speechreading and conversational American Sign Language (ASL) Level 1 and Level 2 courses this fall.

Speechreading is the alternative term to lip reading (the old term implies only the lips of the speaker are observed). It is a learned ability to understand a spoken message by taking in visual cues and other factors for a more comprehensive understanding. The speechreading course will help deaf people develop strategies to communicate more fully. The course runs for 10 weeks and costs $125.

ASL Level 1 will include basic skills such as numbers, meet and greet, family, colours, fruits and veggies, time and calendar, transportation, giving directions, incorporating group practice and play. Level 2 will continue with more complex communication. Each course offers 12 hours of in-person in instruction at a cost of $120.

Registration is open at or call 250-592-8144.

Bottle drives organized for school track fund

The Oak Bay Alumni Association and Oak Bay Rotary is planning monthly no-sort bottle drives to raise funds for the resurfacing of the track at Oak Bay High. The bottle drives will take place on the first Saturday of the month until the end of the year.

In the first eight months of this year, the bottle drives have raised more than $6,000 for the project.

A 24-hour relay in June, supported by members of the Oak Bay Firefighters Charitable Foundation, raised more than $10,000. The Oak Bay branch of Scotiabank contributed $3,000 toward the total.

Bottles will be accepted at the back parking lot of Oak Bay High, off Cranmore Road. Partial proceeds will also assist the Threshold Housing Society, which focuses on youth.

The bottle drives will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 1, Nov. 3 and Dec. 3.

Auction items wanted to buy outreach van

Peers Victoria Resources Society is planning to hold a silent auction as it raises funds for a new night outreach van to help people on the streets.

While the van primarily serves sex workers, it also helps other people on the street who do not feel safe in shelters or who cannot access services anywhere else.

The van helps to deliver messages about housing and health, supplies harm-reduction equipment, provides food, beverages and clothing, and ensures that people are safe.

The society is looking for items, large and small, for the auction, which will launch in the third week of October.

For an item to be picked up, call 250-888-7175 or

For more information on the society, go to

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