For the past several years, a group of dedicated volunteers has tended a community garden on the ground of Kiwi Cove Lodge, and donated the food that they grow to the Ladysmith Food Bank.
The idea was dreamed up by Kiwi Cove owners Doug and Peggy Kolosoff in 2006, who donated a portion of their 10.2 acre property for the community garden.
It all started when Peggy found she no longer had time to tend her personal vegetable garden.
“When we started running the lodge as a business I just did not have time to run my own vegetable garden – there was no way,” she said. “So, I thought we’ve got the land here, and I need to develop a partnership with someone to grow a garden and use the land.”
Over time, that developed into a partnership with the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association, the Ladysmith Food Action Co-ordination Team, Community Link, and individual volunteers to develop a project that would help with local food security.
Initial funds were donated in 2008 by the Ladysmith Safeway Store to show support for the involvement of persons with developmental disabilities. These funds allowed tools and implements to be purchased as needed as well as seeds and some of the plants.
Funding support has also been received from Ladysmith Rotary and Royal Bank as well as anonymous donations. In 2017, the Ladysmith Resources Center pledged an annual amount of funds needed for seeds and garden supplies.
“It’s a strong community effort,” Kolosoff said. “It feels great to be part of that community.”
William Tilland has been part of the Kiwi Cove Community Garden for the last seven years, and has taken a leading role in organizing volunteers to work on the garden. Volunteers meet every Monday and Wednesday to work on the garden and collect produce.
They grow a variety of produce from items like lettuce, kale, tomatoes, onions, zucchinis, chard, and potatoes to a variety of squashes, various kinds of beans, radishes, turnips, peas, and cabbages. West Coast Seeds donates a box of seeds each year to support the garden.
This year, COVID-19 presented unique challenges to the garden. The pandemic got serious in Canada right as the group was preparing for the 2020 season. Tilland almost pulled the plug on the garden for this year, however when the LRCA classified the Kiwi Cove Community Garden as an essential service, he knew the garden would have to go forward.
“We had to figure out how to put all the fence posts in the ground without one person holding them, and someone else hammering them in,” Tilland said. “We try to keep our distance in the garden – it’s a big space, and we’re all in the same bubble.”
Volunteers are often in different areas of the garden harvesting different plants, so maintaining social distancing is not much of a challenge.
Local garden guru, Carolyn Herriot joined the garden a few years ago. Herroit is the author of gardening books: A Year on the Garden Path, and The Zero-Mile Diet – she also publishes a regular gardening column in Take 5 magazine. Herriot has brought her expertise to the community garden, and has helped increase the amount of produce from Kiwi Cove.
Herriot has donated the use of her greenhouse to get a start on growing plants for the garden – this has allowed the garden to begin producing food earlier in the season.
For the volunteers, the garden brings multiple benefits: social interaction, physical exercise, and fresh air. But the most important thing to the Kiwi Cove gardeners is the contribution toward food security in the Ladysmith area.
“We’re concerned about food security,” Herroit said. “We want to contribute toward solving the issue around people having problems feeding their families, and having access to healthy food. We feel that we can make a difference to the health of local families, and provide them with the best food ever.”
All the produce grown at Kiwi Cove is completely organic. Volunteers drop off food at the Ladysmith Food Bank every Monday, and the produce is handed out every Tuesday – so the produce is never more than 24 hours old.
LRCA food security coordinator, Paula Masyk said that the partnership between Kiwi Cove and the LRCA is unlike any program she’s seen before.
During the harvest season, the Kiwi Cove Community Garden provides the Food Bank with all the produce they give out. This saves the Food Bank a significant amount of money that would otherwise be spent ordering produce. Above all, the food makes for a healthy difference in the diets of Ladysmith families.
“Food habits in general are improving, and it’s largely because of Kiwi Cove,” Masyk said.
Masyk said that folks who benefit from Kiwi Cove’s produce are grateful for it, and miss it greatly during the winter months.
“I’m exceedingly grateful every time they arrive with food. They make the difference in the quality of this food bank. The fact that we’re able to offer people this kind of fresh quality produce makes us the best food bank around. Hardly anyone does this, and we’re only able to do this because of Kiwi Cove,” she said.