Our Mission, Our Vision, Our Values
Cowichan Green Community Society, (CGC) is a non-profit organization that has been focusing on environmental sustainability in the Cowichan Region since March 2004. CGC’s mandate is to improve food security by developing strong relationships with local food producers, increasing capacity for local food production (both urban and rural), and empowering people with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to feed their community.
Our Vision and Purpose:
We envision a food secure Cowichan nourished by celebrating our connection to food, to our environment and to each other. Cowichan Green Community (CGC) cultivates resilient, inclusive and healthy local food systems and vibrant social fabric.
Our mission is to cultivate food, community and resilience.
CGC is a community leader, creating a future where our foundation is built on health and well-being; our environment, economy and social fabric are resilient and inclusive; where we celebrate our connection to the earth and to each other.
CGC is also a hub for social innovation, community engagement and community building. CGC creates positive change through education, regenerative projects, and celebration.
CGC’s Guiding Principles are evident in all of the work that we do: we value inclusion, responsibility, commitment, positive solutions, diversity, collaboration, and environmental reverence.
Our food security projects include the creation of food policy documents such as the Cowichan Food Charter and the Cowichan Food Security Plan, projects like Kin Park Youth Urban Farm, a Food Recovery Project to re-distribute excess grocery store produce, FruitSave – a fruit gleaning project – , the Cowichan Grown Farm Map, the Garden Education Centre, and several community gardens. We also offer educational workshops, events and organize Duncan’s annual Seedy Sundays to promote the role of agriculture in our community.
Since 2001, CGC has been honoured to have interacted with thousands of people through our many locations and to engage the public through our various outreach projects, media campaigns, school presentations, event booths, community gardens, and workshops. CGC staff, volunteers, and board members assist with fundraising, office and store staffing, community garden projects, workshops, and day-to-day operations. While participating in numerous community meetings and networking with local service providers, CGC’s mantra has been ‘the future of food is growing.’
Currently, CGC’s office and reFRESH Store are located at 360 Duncan Street, in downtown Duncan, BC.
reFRESH Cowichan: CGC's Food Recovery Program
2018 – Present
CGC’s Food Recovery Program started in 2018 with the goal of improving local food access and security through food recovery in the Cowichan Region. Through strenuous research of various food recovery models and networking with over 21 service providers in the region, the team started collecting produce from local grocery stores and re-distributing it throughout the community. Since then, the program has expanded tremendously and rebranded to reFRESH Cowichan. By June 2021, reFRESH Cowichan had recovered and distributed over 450,000 pounds of fresh produce throughout the Cowichan Region.
Currently, every week reFRESH collects thousands of pounds of excess fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and bakery products from local grocery stores. In addition, local farms donate freshly harvested vegetables regularly. The program distributes the donated produce to regional partners including food banks, daycares, soup kitchens, shelters, community programs, and schools.
Garden Education Centre: From Seed Hub to Garden Centre
2015, 2019 – Present
The 3.5 acre lot on Beverly Street was acquired by CGC in the summer of 2015 through a lease agreement with North Cowichan in preparation for the new Cowichan Incubator Seed Farm. In 2016, fields were tilled and the seed farm began to grow producing locally adapted seed, training new seed farmers, housing a community seed library and offering education about seed saving and food security to community members. Throughout the years, the seed farm became the Cowichan Agricultural Seed Hub and expanded by including an equipment lending library, community seed bank, and the Ross Wristen Inclusion Garden with wheelchair accessible beds and garden paths.
In 2019, the seed hub rebranded as the Garden Education Centre, which now has two greenhouses, a retail space, and community gathering places for education and workshops in addition to what the seed hub has implemented already.
reFRESH Marketplace: The Evolution of Pantry to Marketplace
2015, 2019 – Present
In 2015, CGC renewed and improved their storefront, The Garden Pantry, by including local vendors and value-added items. After many years of re-visioning CGC’s storefront, CGC rebranded the Garden Pantry to reFRESH Cowichan Marketplace in 2018, keeping food security as it’s main focus.
Early 2019, reFRESH Marketplace opened it’s doors offering recovered fruit and vegetables, value-added products, and locally made goods to nourish community. In addition, the reFRESH Cowichan Coupon Program began, giving over 100 low-income families, seniors, and individuals a weekly $25 voucher to shop for groceries in reFRESH.
Late 2020, reFRESH Marketplace underwent a gigantic transformation resulting in a completely new layout, shelving, flooring and more!
On June 28, 2013, after months of negotiations and effort, CGC became the proud owner of the Phoenix Station Motor Inn in downtown Duncan (360 Duncan Street), which has been renamed “The Station”. The facility is approximately 20,000 square feet on two levels. CGC converted the ground floor to a mix of office and ‘green sensitive’ retail businesses including Harmony Yoga and Cycle Therapy, and renovated and transformed the upstairs into 20 affordable downtown living apartments.
Through the acquisition of the hotel, CGC’s office and storefront have a permanent home, and the organization has access to its own commercial kitchen from which to operate its food security workshops and events. This kitchen is also available for the community to rent. As a result of this purchase, CGC is in an ideal position to spread the message of food sustainability and environmental responsibility.
KinPark Youth Urban Farm: Let's Get Growing!
Winter, 2012 – Present
After site plan presentations were made and subsequently approved by North Cowichan and City of Duncan councils in late 2012, CGC’s Skills link team of 6 local youth, began to bring their vision of an urban farm on park land to life. This included the transformation of a quarter acre of grass at Kinsman Park into a lush growing space and the construction of a passive solar greenhouse next to the retrofitted pool building.
What has emerged since is a youth-led urban farm and demonstration site based on the principles of permaculture, that aims to train young people how to grow food and run a business, provide increased access to local and sustainably produced food, and educate community members of all ages on various aspects of urban agriculture.
Since July 2014, KinPark expanded it’s programming by adding in a summer camp called KinPark Kids Camp. Every summer, KinPark blossoms with learning, laughter, and magical friendships from children and their families attending KinPark Kids Camp. This camp is for children ages 6 to 10 to engage in hands-on learning that includes growing, harvesting, cooking, and all-things related to sustainability.
The Big Move to Duncan Street
In October, 2012, CGC once again relocated to the old Phoenix Station Motor Inn as tenants on the main floor with an expanded storefront, a larger boardroom and office space. This also marked the grand opening of CGC’s new storefront, The Garden Pantry Thrift Store. This was a specialty thrift store where community can donate or purchase everything needed to grow, harvest, cook and preserve food!
Cowichan Grown Farm Map: The Beginning!
In June 2010, CGC published the first ever Cowichan Region centric food map. CGC’s goal for the map is to improve the viability of local farms and promote local food producers. The Cowichan Grown Farm, Food and Drink map serves as a direct marketing tool that provides local farmers with an affordable way to reach new local customers. Furthermore, the map serves as a great resource, informing customers where they can source local food.
Social Enterprise & Green Store
In the fall of 2009, as staff and program capacities grew, CGC relocated to a larger office space at 181 Station Street, in downtown Duncan. In this fabulous space, CGC opened a new Green Store, a large community space, and a bright and beautiful office. At that location, CGC developed a variety of Social Enterprises, which is used in part to sustain the organization through income generated by the retail store and an urban agriculture consulting business, Ceres Edible Landscaping.
Kinsmen Community Gardens
Way Back in 2007
In 2007, CGC began transforming an underused downtown park into a bustling epicentre of food production by building a community garden at Kinsmen Park, located next to Cowichan Secondary School. Funding and community support was acquired and 18 raised beds were erected. Since then, the various plots have been continuously used by community members.
In 2009, the existing garden was expanded to include an additional 24 beds in a ‘mandala’ style garden, as well as a tool shed and compost bin. In 2011, a native plant demonstration garden was created, more fruit trees were planted, a memorial bench was erected and more perennials were incorporated into the landscape.
Way Back in 2002
In 2002, CGC moved to 244 Craig Street in Duncan’s City Square and also accepted an invitation to join the Cowichan Community Land Trust Society (CCLT), where it operated as a committee of the CCLT until February 2004. In March of 2004, CGC registered as a BC Society and commenced the process of recruiting and developing a Board of Directors, and to expand its staff base, including the creation of an Executive Director position in 2008. As a result, this change in organizational structure brought new visions, aspirations and opportunities to the organizations, and led to the gradual shift in the types of programs and services offered. Recognizing a need in the community, CGC increasingly began to address issues of food security, through both policy and program based initiatives.
The Cowichan Green Community is Born
The Beginning, 2001
Cowichan Green Community (CGC) unofficially began in 2001 as an environmental-based community outreach project which was supported by the Green Door Society. CGC opened its first storefront environmental centre at 161 Jubilee Street in Duncan, B.C. CGC’s passionate volunteers then created an informal committee and established CGC’s original mandate: to promote energy efficiency, healthy housing and environmental sustainability in the Cowichan Valley. Financed solely by their efforts, they continued to operate the centre for almost a year.