So what is The Gabriola Commons?
It’s a fantastic 26-acre property located on the edge of ‘the village’, Gabriola Island’s commercial core. In 2005, a group of people purchased ‘The Goat Farm’ with a bequest as a down payment. After years of fundraising the mortgage has been paid off earlier this year. The governance of the property has morphed over time and is currently a registered charity, managed by a board of directors.
Every time I visit it’s a hive of activity: someone is working on a project, renovating a building, planting, painting, cutting the grass or trimming the hedge. New outbuildings and fences pop up and people are coming and going.
The large house contains a non-profit social service agency People for a Healthy Community (PHC) on the ground floor. They run a variety of programs including a food bank, soup social lunches and the food recovery program from donations from Village Foods. Unsellable produce is picked up and sorted by volunteers into three streams: food bank/luncheon program, farmers and compost. That’s where I pick up the greens for my chickens.
Upstairs are meeting spaces and a kitchen. I’ve gone to workshops (sprouting, fruit tree grafting, scything) and events there (Christmas fair, Winter Solstice Potlucks, vegan potluck). And I’ve even presented several workshops there (Overdose Prevention and Take Home Naloxone training) as part of my paid work. (Yes, I squeeze in working 4 days/week in Nanaimo between all my chickening).
The three old goat barns have been converted into a community workshop, community kitchen and performance space. There are two large community gardens, an orchard, performance space yurt, timber frame building (yet to be sided with cob/straw bale), a Tool Library – all built and maintained by a huge team of dedicated volunteers. It’s where the GERTIE (Gabriola Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express) buses are housed.
The Commons is also the site of many community events: Spring and Fall Fairs, the Fix-It Fair, the Farm to Table Feast, Christmas Craft Fair, Equinox dinners, workshops, music events and more.
And all of these beautiful buildings are surrounded by natural space: a field, pond (inhabited by beavers) and forest. If you haven’t been to The Commons drop by for a walk around the labyrinth or the board walk around the beaver pond. It’s a great place to chill out or get involved. As their motto says: “A place for everyone. A place for you”.