Healing City Soils

What is this project about?


This project is about getting to know the soil beneath our feet, and building community around healing it. Ensuring the soil is healthy is a first step to any urban agriculture project; from backyard growing to community and boulevard gardening. Urban soils can sometimes contain heavy metals and other contaminants as a result of our industrial past and present.  This is not so great for our urban food gardens as the contaminants can get into or onto our veggies and fruits. Soil testing can be expensive, and the results can be confusing or disheartening, which ends up being a barrier to getting more folks growing.

The goal of Healing City Soils is to analyze the health of Victoria’s soils and create a virtual soil map of Victoria highlighting areas where heavy metals need to be addressed before growing food. This map will be paired with factsheets and workshops to empower people with the knowledge and skills to grow food safely or to heal the soil with compost, plants and mushrooms.

Bridging urban agriculture, composting, food literacy, ecological restoration and bioremediation, this project brings together the municipalities of Victoria and Esquimalt, local post-secondary institutions, food security organizations and people who are interested in growing food and building the soil beneath their feet.

Getting to know the soil where we live means acknowledging and honoring that these lands are the traditional territories of the Coast Salish People of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. It is an honor to live and work within their traditional territory. To read more about Coast Salish People, see:http://www.firstnations.de/development/coast_salish.htm

For more info about decolonization, see this great article by Harsha Walia:https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/decolonizing-together


What are we doing?

Free soil tests!

Through partnership with Royal Roads University and funding from the City of Victoria and the Victoria Foundation, free soil testing for heavy metals will be available to people growing food in the city, or who would like to start food gardens or food forests on boulevards, in community plots or in their front or backyard.

Soil health mapping!

In the first 3 years of this ongoing project, we have offered free tests for heavy metals throughout Greater Victoria at more than 400 sites of food production. The soil test results are being uploaded onto an online, interactive map by GIS Mapping students from University of Victoria so that even though not every yard in the city will be able to be tested, we will get a picture of soil health (or contamination) throughout the city. That way, potential urban growers can use the map to infer soil health – if a neighbor found lead and arsenic, you can assume your yard has it too.

Factsheets and workshops!

A key piece of this project is raising awareness, sharing information to inspire safe and healthy food production here in the city and empowering people with the necessary skills to build the health of their soil if contaminants are found. We will release ‘factsheets’ with information specific to Victoria about:

  • Understanding soil contaminants
  • Best practices for Growing Food Safely

Project partners

This project is a collaboration between the municipalities of Victoria and Esquimalt, local post-secondary institutions, food security organizations and people who are interested in growing food and building the soil beneath their feet.

Victoria Compost Education Centre (Host organization)

Danielle Stevenson, D.I.Y. Fungi (Project coordination + consultation)

Royal Roads University BSc in Environmental Science Major Project Partnership (soil sampling + analysis)- student teams

Advisor/Supervisor: Dr. Matt Dodd, Professor

Steeve Deschenes (GIS + soil mapping consultation)

University of Victoria, Geography Department

Thank you to our project funders:

The Victoria Foundation-Community Grants (2016)
The Victoria Foundation-Community Grants (2016)

For more information:

Healing City Soils webpage

Contact Danielle, Healing City Soils Coordinator: healingcitysoilsvictoria@gmail.com