Victory Gardens at the root of Vancouver’s urban growing

Victory Gardens

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We want to be a one-stop shop to help people grow their own food. Lisa Giroday, founder, Victory Gardens

Vancouverites and Victory Gardens founders Lisa Giroday and Samantha Phillips are organic and local food enthusiasts and avid growers. Prior to starting their own business Lisa and Sam grew vegetables, herbs and fruit in their own spaces for years. They also helped and encouraged their friends and neighbours by sharing their knowledge and experience in urban food growing. It was very important to Lisa and Sam that they illustrated their passion for sustainable, local and organic food growing in their own yards.

The only co-operative of its kind, Victory Gardens specializes in transforming all types of urban space for food production. Since growing food in urban dwellings is subject to unique spaces and challenges, no two urban gardens are the same. Victory Gardens’ goal is to enable people to grow food by providing the necessary educational tools and infrastructure for successful harvests.

Watch the video to hear the story from Lisa Giroday

“We are trained food growers; advocates of a new food system model that promotes participation in production versus just consumption,” says Lisa. “We want to be a one-stop shop to help people grow their own food.”

Victory Gardens’ name and mandate were inspired by post-World-War-I and -II campaigns that encouraged the public to use the residential space around them for food production. The outcome of these campaigns was the unification of people around a common goal to work as a community to become more self-sustaining. A resounding sense of camaraderie prevailed among the people who participated in this movement, instilling a sense of pride and contribution to community.

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Victory Gardens conducts workshops, plans events and uses social media to promote urban food growing and the work that they do. The co-op also runs an online shop, which puts customers in touch with local organic seeds and fertilizer as well as educational material and tools for urban food growing.

Early in 2013, Lisa approached Vancity’s community investment microfinance program manager, Morgan Beall, following his talk on the production of local and organic food. Victory Gardens applied for a Vancity Small Growers’ Microloan and qualified for $40,000, which they have used to purchase a second vehicle, software for task management and infrastructure development, iPads for on-site assessment and administration, and larger inventory for their online shop. Victory Gardens also has a line of credit with Vancity that facilitates day-to-day transactions.

Vancity sponsored the three Victory Gardens founders to attend the Women Entrepreneurs’ Conference. “Lisa and Samantha are driven, competitive and passionate about their co-op,” says Morgan. “They presented a sound business plan and were clear on their ideas for their co-op. Vancity’s Microfinance Program enables us to look at character as well as credit score; to invest in small businesses that are unique and have added values, like Victory Gardens does. We believe in supporting small businesses, women entrepreneurs, local and organic food production, and co-ops.”

Victory Gardens received a $2,000 grant from Vancity to incorporate as a co-operative. “It is difficult for co-ops to get the start-up financing they need from most financial institutions,” says Vancity’s Kate Dunford, manager, community investments. “Vancity shares Victory Gardens’ co-operative values and principles, and that is why we work to help community-focused individuals achieve their goals.”

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