Nestled between the residences of the Cordova Shore and the bustling Elk/Beaver Lake Park is Haliburton Community Organic Farm. This 9.3 acre publicly owned ALR property provides opportunities for novice small scale organic farmers to gain experience in various aspects of growing, selling and farm management in a supportive environment, under the stewardship of the Haliburton Community Organic Farm Society.
In the hot days of July, HAT visited with some old friends, Kristen and James Miskelly who have recently established Victoria’s first certified organic native plant nursery , Saanich Native Plants at Haliburton Farm. Saanich Native Plants not only provides genetically diverse and locally-sourced native plants to home gardeners and restoration projects, but also the expert knowledge of biologists Kristen and James who provide advice on planning, planting and care of native plant gardens.
James and Kristen’s involvement with Haliburton started back in 2007, when a group of dedicated biologists coordinated by Purnima Govindarajulu started the Urban Biodiversity Enhancement & Restoration (UBER) Project at Haliburton Farm to meet the vision of “farming in harmony with local ecosystems”. You wouldn’t be able to tell the area that began as a monoculture of reed canary grass is now a thriving bio-diverse restoration area. The goals of the UBER project are to preserve and restore natural areas, enhance biodiversity, and develop a demonstration site for urban biodiversity enhancement techniques. The group started with a wetland building project but have now have diverse projects including creating a native meadow and grassland, building and installing bird, bat and bee boxes, installing salamander boards, mentoring high-school and university students, and providing educational site visits.
Bat boxes and detector located next to the restoration site. Photo Credit: Todd Carnahan.
Even just "small patches of natural habitat can serve as reservoirs of biodiversity in urban and agricultural landscapes, providing wildlife habitat, ecosystem services and aesthetic havens" Purnima mentions in her video documenting the entire process of the wetland construction. The wetland revitalization is focused on high edge diversity and successional ecosystems blending together sprinkled with rare species that seem to move around spontaneously. Purnima spearheaded UBER and continues to keep everyone involved by organizing monthly work parties. And with all of these extraordinary biologists and passionate volunteers, this site will surely continue to be the inspiration of many restored wetlands to come.
If you would like more information about the farm, visit Haliburton Community Organic Farm at 741 Haliburton Road, or at haliburtonfarm.org. For more on the UBER Project, check it out here.
James and Kristen stand amongst the thriving wetland species. Photo Credit: Todd Carnahan.