The specter of guerrilla gardening: today’s Martlet article explores last year’s guerrilla gardens at UVic, reactions from students and the UVic administration, an upcoming symposium on the gardens, and possible events to come…


Resistance is Futile

For the love of sod, please forward widely:

For details on the upcoming “Food or Lawns?” Symposium, click here or go to: http://vicfnl.com/gardening-resources/


WHEN: March 24th, noon (one year after the first guerrilla gardens were planted at UVic)

WHERE: Petch Fountain in front of the MacPherson Library, UVic

WHAT: Our reconnaissance efforts have led us to suspect that a group of gardeners are planning something again… They must be stopped: the lawns must be defended! Join the Guard-in: an event to serve and protect the interests of the university, corporations, and the rule of law! For too long, we have stood idly by and watched as people shared food without charging for it, refused to obey laws and university policies, sullied our Canadian government with talk of ‘continuing colonialism’, and most recently, banned bottled water in the SUB! All of this shows a lack of respect for the capitalist status quo: we are all equals now, racing to the top! Help free markets, reduce barriers to trade, and commodify everything! It’s good for the economy!

Please note that there is a dress code for this event: please wear business-casual attire. The richer you look, the better. Bring your books, papers, uniforms, corporate paraphernalia, briefcases, suits, ties, Blackberries and iPhones.

This event is occurring during the designated lunch break at UVic. All students, faculty, and staff should return to their regular activities immediately once their lunch break is over. Get back to work.

No gardening materials are permitted! Anyone caught with rakes, shovels, seeds, plants, or other prohibited materials will be sued, prosecuted, and interrogated. Musical instruments are permitted, provided all musicians have received training from the Royal Conservatory of Music above the Grade 10 level.

No children are permitted. They should be in school anyway.

Visit the Facebook group and event page on Facebook and invite your business-friendly friends: http://www.facebook.com/%27#!/event.php?eid=136328879770605


January 26th, 2011


UVic has announced that it plans to eliminate all automobiles on campus in the coming months.  Earlier plans to destroy the rabbit population have been cancelled, said UVic spokesperson Kruce Bilpatrick, because it has become clear that the automobiles are a much bigger problem.  “Automobile owners leave their vehicles on a daily basis, leaving UVic to shoulder the burden of a growing population of cars,” said Bilpatrick.  The automobiles aren’t simply an eyesore, according to Bilpatrick.  They release toxic fumes, they are reliant on an unsustainable fossil-fuel economy, they encourage narcissistic consumerism, and they frequently kill rabbits and other animals.

Cars also present a much more systemic and potentially disastrous problem for the university: parking lots.  “Parking lots are getting out of control at UVic and we need to take immediate action to reverse this trend,” said Bilpatrick.  UVic revealed its “Campus Transition Plan”, which details a 5-year plan to get rid of parking lots, with more gardens and more paths for pedestrians and cyclists.  As part of this plan, UVic will also be turning most of its lawn space into food-producing gardens.  “Once we started thinking about all the wasted space on parking lots, we started to recognize that lawns are a pretty stupid use of space, too.  In comparison to the automobile and lawn epidemic, our rabbit problem is actually quite small,” Bilpatrick said.

Alongside this transition, UVic is considering a number of more immediate measures to reduce the car population, including a campaign to educate the UVic community on the dangers of feeding gas to the cars.  The campaign features a set of posters with wild animals such as eagles, deer, and rabbits, which reads “you wouldn’t feed gas to an eagle; please don’t feed the cars.”

“The methods under consideration are basically the same as those we used on the bunnies,” said Bilpatrick: “poisoning, trapping, and shooting.”  By far the most economical solution would be to hire a sniper who would shoot out the gas tanks of parked cars, blowing them up.  Poisoning would entail placing sugar in gas tanks, or bashing the engine with a big hammer.  However, a number of students, faculty, and community members have expressed concerns that these methods are inhumane.

Students and faculty from the Jeeter V Pustavsen School of Business have filed an injunction to stop UVic from killing the cars, and they petitioning the university to adopt a more humane method of capturing and sterilizing the cars.  “Our group is working to find a car refuge where the cars can live out the rest of their days in peace,” said a representative.  The cars would be trapped, their gaslines snipped, and they would be transported to one of the car refuges.

Bilpatrick emphasized that he’s open to options, but the university needs a rapid response.  “Whatever the long-term solution is, it’s clear that UVic’s car infestations and parking lot epidemics have to be confronted immediately.”  In the meantime, Bilpatrick is urging UVic community members to walk, ride a bike, or take the bus to campus, and to dig up lawns and plant gardens wherever possible.

For more information (or ideas), visit Many Politics.

Resistance is Fertile!  No new guerrilla gardens have been constructed (well, none in front of the library), and this has led many to assume that ‘Food Not Lawns’, whatever it was, is over.  However, the two guerrilla gardens constructed at the University of Victoria have always exceeded the places, issues, or people from which they are said to have originated.  It has always been about more than ‘more gardens’, and political struggles around property, development, food security, colonialism and bureaucracy have by no means subsided.  New tactics are being experimented with; new collectives are emerging; and old, subjugated practices, foodways, and knowledges are being cultivated.  These often fall below the radar of what is normally considered ‘activism’ or ‘politics’, but they are by no means insignificant.  They form the soil from which more overt experiments can grow.

Perhaps it is the case that ‘Food Not Lawns’ no longer exists as it did before, but if it is ‘dead’, it has decayed and enriched the soil from which it grew.  Perhaps this is something to be celebrated: maybe we need to let our tactics die sometimes, so that new ones can sprout up.  If we hold onto practices for too long, they become lifeless zombies, no longer capable of inspiring, provoking, unsettling, or changing.  Zombie politics just stumbles around and preys on lively transformative politics.  This happens when practices become routines, opposition becomes predictable, and everyone knows exactly what to expect.  Of course, the tactic of guerrilla gardening has plenty of life in it yet, so we will have to wait and see what grows this spring…

In the meantime, check out the new and updated zine: Food Not Lawns: New Experiments in Foodways for our Colonial, State-Capitalist Context (printable version).

The zine can be accessed in full-sized format or in our printable booklet version, above, which is ready to be printed, distributed, and so on.



April 9 2010 – Coast Salish Territories – Victoria, BC.  On Friday, April 9th students, faculty and staff arrived at the University of Victoria and found the Community Garden destroyed, with a large fence surrounding the area, and a sign that reads “Area Under Restoration, Do Not Enter.”

The Community Garden has been a contentious issue at UVic, ever since it was first constructed on March 24th without permission from UVic administration.  That night, UVic bulldozed the garden, but on March 31st, over 500 students, faculty, and community members converged on the space and reconstructed the garden.

A press release issued by UVic today announces that the space was “restored for community use,” but explains that the area “will be fenced off until it is ready for use again by students and other university community members.”  It reminds readers that “an investigation into the incident is ongoing.”

“The notion that only lawns can facilitate ‘community use’ is a joke,” said Renee McBeth, a UVic student.  “The Community Garden was becoming a space for dialogue, workshops, and community-building activities,” said McBeth.  “We held two workshops there yesterday.  A number of UVic professors have already volunteered to hold public discussions there.  I’m shocked and saddened to see the heavy-handed response the university administration has taken against this creative student initiative.”

Other students are frustrated about the way UVic has responded.  “First students planted a garden, and they bulldozed it,” said Nick Montgomery, another UVic student.  “Then more students, community members, and faculty replanted the garden, and support grew.  This time, they left it alone for a week, sent out threatening letters to students, and then destroyed it again.  UVic seems to have plenty of time for these tactics, but no time to hold the public meeting they’ve been promising.”

“It’s really frustrating,” said former UVic student Larkin Schmiedl.  “UVic, like many institutions, pays lip service to food security, but when it comes to the reality of it, we’re faced with an alienating bureaucracy that actually prevents people from being involved in the circumstances of their daily lives,” said Schmiedl.  “Local food is a pressing issue that is widely recognized as such.  Why does the administration have such a need to control what is happening with this garden?”

Students have promised further initiatives to come.


University privately sends threatening letters

April 8 2010 – Coast Salish Territories – Victoria, BC.  On Wednesday, April 7th students organized a public forum to discuss issues raised by the garden constructed outside McPherson Library the previous week.

“The intention was to create a space for dialogue among peers about some of the issues that have been brought up with the construction of the gardens – namely food security, property, university governance, and legitimacy,” said Daniel Geselbrach, one of the forum organizers.  Over 40 students and community members attended, some of whom opposed the construction of the garden.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to engage with people who have problems with the garden,” said Katy Dewinetz, a student who attended the forum.  “The forum was a great place to dialogue in a non-confrontational way.”

Although UVic’s administration has pledged to hold a public meeting on sustainability to address these issues, it has yet to take initiative.  Instead, it issued threatening letters to students identified as “guerilla gardeners.”

The letter is signed by the Director of Campus Security, Peter Zacour, and the Assistant Vice-President of Student Affairs, Jim Dunsdon, with instructions to “stay away from the makeshift garden, and away from the area in front of the McPherson Library except for legitimate purposes associated with your course of studies.”  It further hints that recipients of the letter are under criminal investigation, and warns that once police proceedings are concluded, UVic “will examine the question of whether additional sanctions are necessary.”

Many students see the letters as intimidation tactics by UVic administration.  “I feel singled out from a crowd of hundreds,” said Miranda Cross, one of the students who received a letter.  “On the day of the action, I was talking with participants about the Vision of UVic as a Garden Campus, with educational farms and ethnobotanical gardens.  We collected over 500 signatures in just a few hours for this vision.”

Nick Montgomery, another student who received a letter, said that UVic could learn from students.  “UVic has said it’s going to hold a forum to discuss these issues, but that hasn’t materialized.  While students were busy participating in public discussions, the administration was drafting coercive letters, rather than engaging in dialogue.”  He suggests that UVic is trying to marginalize the gardeners.  “UVic spokespeople have emphasized the fact that the garden was created by people who don’t represent the whole UVic community,” said Montgomery.  “What they don’t mention is that UVic’s decisions are made by a small group of administrators at the top of the bureaucratic hierarchy.  That doesn’t represent everyone either.”  Recipients of the letters say that they have already received support from faculty, community members, and other students and support continues to grow.

Media Contacts:

Nick Montgomery – 250-891-2222;

Tyler Sparks – 778-678-2799

Open Forum on the Garden: Wednesday April 7th at NOON
If you are you interested in discussing some of the issues that have been brought up due to the construction of the gardens on the 24th and 31st, there will be an informal gathering this Wednesday at noon at the fountain. The intention is to get some of the campus community to participate in some casual and semi-facilitated dialogues around issues such as food security, private property, University governance, vandalism etc.
Everyone is welcome!

The event will happen at 12:00 this Wednesday at the fountain, and if it’s raining, the discussion will be held in the Michel Pujol Room in the SUB.

We are also looking for a few facilitators (~4). If you have some training and would like to help out, we will be getting together as a group in Clearihue room A307 from 7-9 Tuesday evening.

Thanks and hope to see you out there!