Growing resilience and cultural exchange

Three people pose for a picture in a garden holding collard greens in a basket.

Some people enjoy them with mashed potatoes, smoked meat or even mac and cheese.

But Anna Maria Stone says collard greens are best enjoyed with a healthy side of stories and laughter.

“The health of people and the land thrive when we grow, harvest, share and cook together,” says Stone, who is the program coordinator for Iyé Creative Collective, a grassroots organization that, in part, teaches people to grow their own food.

In partnership with the City of Victoria and Royal Roads University’s Farm at RRU, Iyé Creative Collective organized a collard greens workshop – to teach people not only how to grow and cook the leafy green, but also about the cultural significance of the nutritious and hearty plant.

People cooking in a kitchen

“The health of people and the land thrive when we grow, harvest, share and cook together,” says Anna Maria Stone, Iyé Creative Collective program coordinator. Photo: Mohanned Ghadban

“Part of our work over the last two years has been bringing more culturally relevant foods to the table and introducing crops that can thrive in this ecosystem,” Stone says. “Collards love these lands, and our communities love collards.”

Royal Roads University Food Systems Manager, Solara Goldwynn couldn’t agree more.

Climate change means there’s growing importance in diversifying the crops we grow, Goldwynn says, who led the first part of the workshop in Royal Roads University’s Giving Garden as part of the Farm at RRU.

“Collards are a super resilient plant and they grow really well in our climate.”

People learn about collard greens in a garden

Climate change means there’s growing importance in diversifying the crops we grow, Goldwynn says, who led the first part of the workshop in Royal Roads University’s Giving Garden as part of the Farm at RRU. Photo: Mohanned Ghadban

Goldwynn has been growing collards in the Giving Garden for well over a year, along with other veggies including summer squash, tomatoes and beans. Harvests are distributed to recipients including students, seniors, single parents and new immigrants via weekly box programs and community fridges both on and off campus.

“Food insecurity rates are increasing everyday with inflation, economic downturn, and the fundamental lack of connection to the lands and waters we reside on,” Stone says. “Our intention was to bridge the gap between communities while highlighting the significance of this valuable food plant.”

Why the humble collard?

Collards not only grow well here, but they also have a fascinating history that spans different cultures and communities around the globe, Stone says.

In addition to the collard greens, curried dahl and roti on the menu, was a communal culinary experience led by Chef Natalie Justin, workshop co-facilitator and owner of Stir it Up Caribbean restaurant in downtown Victoria.

Two people cooking collard greens.

Chef Natalie Justin, right, is pictured alongside Iyé Creative co-founder Jess Barton. Workshop participants learned how to prepare and serve the leafy greens harvested from Royal Roads. Photo: Mohanned Ghadban

As Justin taught participants how to prepare and serve the leafy greens harvested from Royal Roads, she also spoke to the significance of collards in the African diaspora and their journey through generations to the Americas in the braids of ancestors, says Ariel Reyes Antuan, who co-founded Iyé Creative alongside his partner Jess Barton.

“Collards really are a symbol of resilience and cultural identity,” Reyes Antuan says. “We also talked about the close relations of African descendants in the diaspora and Indigenous peoples in the Americas, as they have historically shared and exchanged seeds, fostering cultural exchange, resilience, and a shared commitment to sustainable agriculture.”

So you want to grow collards? Here are Goldwynn’s top tips.

People plant collard greens in a garden.

Collards are not only nutrient-dense and tasty, they grow well in the pacific northwest, Goldwynn says. Photo: Mohanned Ghadban

  • Start from seed now and you will have collards all winter and next spring.
  • Collards are heavy feeders. Give them plenty of manure and plant in rich soil fortified with compost. Use organic fertilizer throughout the growing season as needed. Fish or kelp fertilizer are great options.
  • Already got collards on the go? Are they infested with aphids? Don’t give up on your plants. They love the cold and once fall arrives, they’ll recover.
  • Save your own seed – and plant free food every year.

Ready to cook with collards? 

Try these Callaloo Collard Greens from The Black Foodie

1 Smoked turkey leg chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 lb Collard greens
1 Carton of Chicken broth
½ cup Coconut milk powder
7 Okra
1 Onion
8 Cloves of garlic
1 Scotch bonnet pepper
3 Sprigs of thyme
1 Chicken bouillon cube
1 tbsp Paprika
4 Green onions
2 tbsp Olive oil

In a large pressure cooker on medium heat, cook the olive oil, garlic, green onions, and okra over medium heat until fragrant.
To the pot, add the chopped turkey leg and sauté it, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the collard greens, chicken broth, coconut milk powder, thyme, chicken bouillon cube, paprika, and scotch bonnet pepper*.
*To increase the heat of the dish, crush the scotch bonnet pepper into the mixture. If you like it mild, leave the pepper to rest on top of mixture as it cooks.
Cover, and let it cook down for 30 minutes.
Season to taste and serve.

Learn more about Iyé Creative Collective and the City of Victoria’s Get Growing Program

The Farm at RRU is supported by TD Bank Group. For more information on how your donation in support of the gardens at Royal Roads University can help tackle food insecurity, act on reconciliation, establish community spaces and create biodiversity, donate to Vision in Bloom today. 

The Farm at Royal Roads blooms bigger with TD Bank Group support

The sunshine – and a generous gift from TD Bank Group – is growing the Farm at Royal Roads University (RRU).

Today, TD announced a $196,000 donation to RRU’s annual grounds and gardens fundraising appeal, A Vision in Bloom, which focuses on further developing the campus grounds to help tackle food insecurity, act on reconciliation, restore and preserve cultural heritage, and create biodiversity on the West Shore.

The Farm at Royal Roads, a reimagining of the former 5.26 acre walled Edwardian kitchen garden situated near Hatley Castle, produced more than 1,000 pounds of fresh vegetables during its first growing year in 2022. Dubbed the Giving Garden, the produce was provided to food-insecure seniors, single parents, newcomers to Canada and placed in an on-campus community fridge for students.

This year, through the generous donation from TD and further support from the community, RRU will focus on expanding the Giving Garden, as well as establishing a Market Garden, which will sell produce to partners and the public at a campus farm stand with revenue reinvested into the Farm. Other plans include the establishment of an irrigated Indigenous Medicine Garden and Polyculture Orchard. The number of trees and biodiversity of plants will increase by 100 per cent over the next two years and the Farm will offer learning opportunities for community members, staff, faculty and students.

“With support from TD, our efforts to address food security, climate adaptation and reconciliation on the Farm will help us transform the space and become home to an expanded, diverse, community-based resource in the years to come,” says Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp.

“We’re so proud to help The Farm at RRU with their critical work to tackle food insecurity, advance reconciliation and increase climate resiliency,” says Bruce Gray, Vancouver Island District Vice President, TD Bank Group. “Through the TD Ready Commitment, our corporate citizenship platform, we’re supporting organizations focused on enhancing and activating green spaces that help build stronger, more resilient communities.”

The Farm serves as a learning and research space for faculty, students and community members, providing hands-on educational experiences focusing on agricultural approaches that incorporate climate adaptation strategies and Indigenous ways of knowing. Garden volunteers are also welcome throughout the year to help with food production in the Giving Garden. Volunteer sessions are held biweekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the lunch hour.

“The opportunity to learn wise practices and try new ways of growing food – from sowing cover crops in the winter to creating spots in the garden that welcome pollinators – to try to adapt to our changing climate is invaluable to have first-hand experience with,” says Nancy Prevost-Maurice, a student in the university’s Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership. “It’s been a life-changing experience to integrate this learning and participate in the co-creation of plans for an Indigenous Medicine Garden.”

Community donations to A Vision in Bloom – Royal Roads’ annual fundraising appeal – supports further development of the gardens, including the revitalization of the Japanese Gardens and the construction of a traditional Japanese teahouse on the grounds. Visit to donate.

Learn more:


Local food leaves little carbon footprint

Solara Goldwynn, food systems manager for Royal Roads University’s Giving Garden, speaks on Conversations Live with Stuart McNish about the university’s local solution to address food insecurity.

In an excerpt from her interview, she shares a garden update:

“The garden was created with a sheet mulch, so that means we do not do any digging or tilling. So, this method of gardening helps to keep the carbon in the ground and keep the weeds in the ground. It’s a really good demonstration of how to do low-impact agriculture.

“This past year, we produced over 1,000 lb. [of produce], which is quite a lot for a small garden. The Giving Garden model is just a small example of what you can do when you turn a lawn into a productive food garden.”

Watch the full Conversations Live panel featuring President Philip Steenkamp on the topic of food security and climate-smart agriculture. 

Growing kindness: RRU’s community fridge

It’s been a year since the start of the Royal Roads University Giving Garden. Now there’s a new addition: the RRU community fridge.

The initiative is a partnership between the Giving Garden and Student Food Bank.

Education Specialist and Master of Arts in Climate Action Leadership student Nancy Prévost-Maurice collaborated with Food Systems Manager Solara Goldwynn to bring this idea forward to student services. From there, everything fell into place quite quickly.

The community fridge is modelled after other local initiatives like the Victoria community fridge in Rock Bay, says Goldwynn. “It’s a place to provide fresh, nutritious produce to students in need, like the rapini we picked today.”

Kale plant

Student Success Manager Gwen Campden says that “[t]raditionally, RRU’s foodbank has been primarily non-perishable food due to logistics. This cooperation with the Giving Garden provides fresh, locally grown food.”

Both Goldwynn and Campden emphasize the importance of students approaching the community fridge resource with respect and courtesy:

  • Only take what’s needed to make sure others can benefit
  • Make sure to only take food that’s clearly labelled as part of the program

You can find the RRU Community Fridge on the main floor of the Sequoia Building around the corner from the Welcome Desk.

Interested in digging in and supporting a growing cause? Everyone is welcome to contribute to the Giving Garden as a volunteer, donor or visitor. Volunteer shifts are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Email Goldwynn’s team to get involved.

From no-dig to pollinator plants, try this at home

Solara Goldwynn, Royal Roads University’s food systems manager took staff on a tour of the Giving Garden as part of the university’s celebrations for Earth Week hosted by the Climate and Sustainability team.

Goldwynn had these tips from the Giving Garden that will work for any home gardener as well.

Kale plant

Sweet greens year round

Kale and collard plants are their sweetest-tasting after a frost. Harvests from the large plants pictured fill food boxes, are donated to local partners, and most recently, were included in weekly deliveries to our on-campus community fridge for those in need to take home and enjoy.

Close up of shoes standing on wood mulch. Person is wearing Royal Roads socks.

Do you dig not digging?

The no-dig garden relies on permanent beds and wood mulch pathways to help with water management, compaction, and keeping crops happy and healthy. As the wood chips in the pathways break down into soil over the years, it can be added to garden beds. Wood chips help prevent weeds from growing in garden paths, and help keep gardening shoes mud-free by creating a soft, spongy path to walk on. 

Group of people standing at the edge of a garden row looking at a woman speaking to them.

Use the chop and drop approach

Crop cover plants, like the ones pictured above, help to rejuvenate the soil over the winter while their blooms in the spring attract pollinators to the area. When it comes time to plant in your garden, you simply “chop and drop” the plant cuttings on the garden row so that the newly added plants can enjoy the nutrients as the plants return to the earth. Examples of great cover crop plants are annual clover, winter pea, fava beans, and phacelia.

Three people crouched down, planting seedlings into a garden row.

Include pollinator plants in your garden

Planting a pollinator garden close to your veggie garden helps attract bees and other pollinators. The Giving Garden features mugwort, fireweed, goldenrod, shooting stars, douglas aster, nodding onion, which do double duty as sources for food and medicine in addition to attracting pollinators. Make sure to do your research to ensure you are selecting plants appropriate to your location, and only eat something if you know it’s edible.

Woman standing in front of a large cedar compost box.

Don’t forget about compost!

The Giving Garden at RRU is beginning to use compost made from the garden waste , turning it into a rich soil booster for the next planting. If you’re keen to try at-home composting, be sure to turn the compost regularly and be patient. Goldwynn says after several months you’ll have a nutrient-rich material for your seeds to grow in.

New to gardening and not sure where to start?

Here are some great planting resources highlighted by Goldwynn:
•    The free West Coast Seeds catalogue planting calendar available at most gardening stores.
•    Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples by Nancy Turner.
•    The Compost Education Centre many fact sheets on composting, food growing and more.
•    For more information on no-dig gardening check out books, and youtube videos by Charles Downing.

1,000 pounds and growing: RRU Garden helps feed community

Royal Roads University’s Giving Garden, part of A Vision in Bloom, is helping fight food insecurity on Vancouver Island

Royal Roads’ kitchen garden is producing

Right now we are giving the community 120 pounds of organic produce a week, grown right here on campus in our Giving Garden, funded by your donations to A Vision in Bloom.

100 years of history and the heritage fruit trees of Royal Roads

When is a banana not a banana? When it’s a Winter Banana! (Which is a type of apple and one of RRU’s heritage fruit trees.)

Buzzing bees will boost Royal Roads’ vision for a productive kitchen garden

Century-old kitchen garden at RRU will produce fruit, veggies for campus and community as part of Vision in Bloom renewal

President Steenkamp: Good things are growing at RRU

We’re reimagining what was once the Dunsmuirs’ kitchen garden into a community food-production hub. Watch the first plot being built in just two days.