Sun Newspaper, April 24, 2010, Section: The Green Man
Article written by Randy Shore that mentions Donald Flather
as being instrumental in creating "Victory Gardens"
Reproduced here with permission of The Vancouver
Pinch has been hoeing and weeding his plot in the East Boulevard
community garden for 25 years, and you could say he learned
his craft at the feet of the master.
took as his mentor University of B.C.-trained botanist Donald
Flather, who founded the garden in 1942 to support the
war effort. Flather was well-known during his lifetime as
an artist and a high school teacher, receiving his doctorate
in education and raising three sons who all became medical
victory gardens were common during the First World War, Flather
was a bit of a visionary when conflict enveloped the world
a second time.
were slow to embrace victory gardens during the Second World
War. They were mainly planted by activists and “empty lot”
leagues in Vancouver and Victoria. Indeed, the federal government
was loath to risk seed, fertilizer and equipment on dilettante
gardeners who might either fail to produce or fail to follow
through on their pledge to produce food, and at first discouraged
attempts to mount a national campaign to encourage victory
a potato blight and carrot fly outbreak combined with agricultural
labour shortages to cause serious want and federal agriculture
minister James Gardiner finally got behind the plan in 1943.
course, Flather and the East Boulevard gardeners had
already reaped one harvest and were on their way to a second
by then, proving that backyards and empty lots in the urban
landscape could play a significant role in producing food.
efforts were followed by many of his neighbours, said Pinch.
They planted crops in lots sprinkled from 47th Avenue up to
near 65th Avenue, though most of the lots above 57th Avenue
and below 49th are gone now. “During the war years there was
a whole long line of gardens along East Boulevard,” he recalled.
“When the war ended a lot of people packed it in and went
back to buying their groceries, but he carried on because
he loved gardening.”
forward 40 years and Pinch, at the behest of his neighbour,
ambled over to East Boulevard and West 50th to find a plot
to garden on. There he found an 82-year-old Donald Flather
still happily toiling over his plot and spent the next several
years picking the old man’s brain, gleaning what he could
from a lifetime of gardening.
Pinch (shown in above photo) is the grand old man of East
Boulevard and is still digging the same 60-by-22-foot patch
of ground that he took on 25 years ago. When the weather is
good, you can find him there most days. But unlike most of
the 65 years since the war ended, there is now a waiting list
of at least 70 people waiting for a chance to grow a few beets
and radishes of their own at the old victory garden.
the waiting list for community garden plots is “at least in
the thousands,” says Andrew Pask of Vancouver’s social planning
As in the war years, any vacant lot is a potential garden.
When a gas station was razed at the corner of Davie Street
and Burrard downtown the neighbourhood soon rallied to claim
the space for community gardens while the owner readies for
makes more sense than leaving a development site behind snow
fencing with weeds and litter on it,” Pask said. A second
privately owned site at Pacific and Seymour is winding down
to prepare the site for construction. Churches and social
service agencies are making their yard space available to
their clients and other gardeners; even the roof of the downtown
YWCA is under cultivation. The organic produce grown there
goes to women who use the Y’s Crabtree Corner family resource
2006, gardens have been popping up on city and park board
land, especially since the launch of Vancouver’s 2010 by 2010
initiative. The goal of then-councillor Peter Ladner’s plan
was to encourage the development of 2,010 new garden plots
in the city, adding to the 950 plots that existed at the time.
Dec. 31, 2009, 2,029 new plots were registered with the city
and Pask says another 70 or so are coming online this month.
Gardens on city land are usually run by member-gardeners who
form a non-profit society. The East Boulevard gardens are
thevancouversunistered by the city, as gardeners there resisted
range from just a few small box gardens to sprawling operations
such as the one in Strathcona Park with about 200 plots. Even
a slice of the grounds of city hall is under crop.
3,000 plots are being cultivated, but there is demand for
many more, said Pask.
that I’ve talked to has a waiting list and not just a few
names, they are long lists,” Pask said. Many are no longer
the charge to create more spaces in 2010 is an ambitious program
called Can You Dig It by the social service group posAbilities,
which works with people who have developmental disabilities.
The organization, with help from the Vancouver Foundation,
the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver, Vancouver
Coastal Health and B.C. Social Ventures Partners, is opening
six new community gardens in Metro Vancouver this year with
plans for many more in the works.
of a new garden on city land at Elgin Street and East 37th
Avenue began last Saturday. Over the next three years 24 gardens
will be built, mainly in the backyards of group homes run
During the war there were upwards of 1,400 victory gardens
in Vancouver and they were an important component in food
security. But beyond that, shared garden space has a way of
building community, says Can You Dig It coordinator Cinthia
Page, a veteran of rural development projects in West Africa
garden is a place where people’s limitations and boundaries
are broken down; Page says a disabled person can plant a seed
just the same as a rich and powerful person. “It is a place
where everyone is equal.”
posAbilities clients, the experience is empowering.
able to grow something that they can share with each other
and with their neighbours is a huge accomplishment,” Page
said. “When you give something you grew yourself, you get
so much more for yourself.” A neighbour with fresh vegetables
is always a welcome neighbour.
The original article and links to Randy
Shore's blog can be found through this link: