Erin and Katie, Green Project Workers, Duncan
Erin Ward had almost quit on her dream. Schooled in geography and gardening, the 37 year old Vancouver Island woman was starting to doubt that she’d ever have a career in ecological or sustainable/edible landscaping. “I was unemployed,” says Erin, “and I didn’t know what the heck I would do.”
Katie Gateley was in almost the same boat. Having recently moved to the Cowichan Valley, she was having a tough time finding a job that had anything to do with her education and skills.
And then both women found something interesting online- an intriguing job posting by the Cowichan Green Community Society. The non-profit, which focuses on environmental sustainability in the Cowichan region, was looking to design and create a demonstration food forest. To make this happen, it had teamed up with the B.C. Government to hire workers through a Job Creation Partnership.
Interested, Erin and Katie each visited the local WorkBC Employment Services Centre, where they got a lot of help. “I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of resources and support that were offered,” says Katie.
Both women were encouraged to apply for positions with the project and were stoked to get hired. “I could hardly believe that I was getting the chance to learn about food forest concepts and about all the edible plants that we can grow in our area,” Erin says. “I have worked in a lot of gardens, but this one has so many plants that aren’t in typical ornamental landscaping.”
The Cowichan Green Community Society is a hub for social innovation and community engagement in the Cowichan Valley. They wanted to create the edible garden to demonstrate food forestry and permaculture principles. The idea was to plant more than 500 perennial food plants, from goji berries to Seabuck and from Stevia to mulberries, and to use creative techniques for water catchment to make the whole thing sustainable.
Erin and Katie got two of the coolest jobs you can imagine, working to transform the grounds of a former motel. And the best thing about it was that it led to lasting employment for both women. Once the 24-week project was done, the society hired Erin to directly apply what she had learned through its Ceres Edible Landscaping operation. Katie also got a position organizing and running Cowichan Green Community’s new KinPark Kid’s Summer Camp.
WorkBC came through for Katie and Erin, with funding for the Job Creation Partnership and with the help of the WorkBC Employment Services Centre that helped them make the connection and get their jobs.
Katie is grateful for the opportunity. She says, “I learned more than I could ever have imagined in the span of six months, and I will carry this knowledge forward with confidence, spreading the word about sustainable agriculture, community building and positive relationships with food.”
Erin is also thrilled with the experience and with working for Cowichan Green Community. “It provides a living example of how innovation, creativity and positive attitudes can function as a way to be while at work,” says Erin. “In today’s world, where things are changing so fast, I think it is a very valuable skill to innovate and create new ideas. Furthermore, while you are gaining work experience, it feels so great to know you are also contributing to your community’s well-being.”