Mycology at the CEC

December 20, 2023



Ever since moving to the coast, I’ve been fascinated by flora and have spent a lot of time learning the names of the plants around me and how to recognize them. While spending so much time in the forest admiring plants, it became hard to ignore fungi when fall rolled around. Since 2021, I’ve been equally enamored with the fungal diversity that can be found here on the south island, which led me to join the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society (SVIMS). Joining the mycological society has been very fun, and has provided me the opportunity to learn from countless experts while expanding my knowledge of the fungal kingdom.


This fall, the CEC supported me in attending SVIMS’s annual Cowichan Lake Foray as a professional development opportunity. The Foray is a Friday-Sunday event consisting of several guided mushroom walks, identification and generally a survey of the fungal biodiversity in the area. There were a plethora of amazing things out there, but my mushr.oom find of the weekend was definitely finding my first Cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis radicata), which I was able to take home and cook with my roommates. Another fun part of the weekend was getting to help out in the identification room a bit. When I first joined SVIMS, I mostly practiced “keying out” mushrooms that others already knew what they were to get familiar with the process. Keying out is the process of identifying fungi using guidebooks and other resources. This time around, I tried my hand at keying out mushrooms that hadn’t yet been successfully IDed and ended up identifying one of them as a Tricholoma species that we only found one potential previous record of having been observed in British Columbia. SVIMS ended up sending it for DNA sequencing so it’ll be exciting to see if the results are a match for the ID I made!

Compared to plants and animals, there is a lot more we don’t know about what fungi species we have here in North America. Many species here are currently named for similar European species, but as more genetic sequencing is done, we are discovering that the species are distinct from their European counterparts and/or what we previously considered to be just one species is actually several. For this reason, even the most amateur mycologist can make interesting contributions by observing, documenting, and preserving specimens they find. While learning about the ever-evolving taxonomy of fungi is interesting, it’s even more intriguing to learn about all the various roles fungi have in the ecosystem as well as the ways they interact with plants, insects, animals. and everything in the forest.


In my role running the semester long Let it Rot (LIR) program at high schools in the CRD, it has been so great to get to incorporate mycology with the knowledge I’ve gained at SVIMS over the past two years. This fall, I ran a mycology unit as part of LIR which included a guided mushroom walk, a lesson in documenting fungi using field slips, recording key information, properly collecting and taking spore prints. We also learned about fungi’s many roles in the ecosystem and wrapped it up with some fungi trivia. The students were quite excited about mushrooms and got really into trying to spot them. Even this week in early December weeks after our mycology unit students were asking if we could do another mushroom walk. I’ll be looking forward to another mycology unit in 2024 when some spring fungi are out. And stay tuned for an adult introduction to mycology workshop fall 2024!

 By Elora Adamson, Child & Youth Education Manager

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Kayla Siefried, a finalist for Charity Village Award

December 6, 2023

Our Site Manager and Community Education Coordinator, Kayla Siefried was a top finalist for the Charity Village awards, in the category of Most Outstanding Individual Impact. 

As an expert educator and ground leader, Kayla teaches others to do as she says and what she does. In her time at the CEC she has taught 946 workshops to 16,127 childen, youth, and adults on topics related to composting, food preservation, and gardening.

When asked to describe his experience learning from Kyla, a former workshop attendee wrote:

“For the past two years, Kayla has been my invaluable gardening mentor, guiding me through this journey with unwavering expertise and passion. Her exceptional communication skills have not only helped me immensely but have also benefited our entire class. I owe her a profound debt of gratitude, as there’s no one I’ve learned more from about gardening than her.”

We are grateful to have Kayla on staff at the Compost Education Centre.

By Zoe-Blue Coates, Office Manager and Communications Coordinator

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Strategic Planning Updates

December 1, 2023

I joined the Compost Ed Centre as Executive Director in February 2023, and I’m constantly learning about who we are and what we do. Let me begin by saying that I am so grateful to work with Elora, Jeffrey, Kayla, and Zoe-Blue. Earlier this year in anticipation of our strategic planning, we sent out a survey to gather data from our community as to what they view as the Compost Ed Centre’s strengths and what they might want us to do differently in the next three to five years. Consistently, the responses highlighted knowledgeable, engaging, and passionate staff as our core strength. And for the future? For us to keep doing what we have been doing – and possibly some expansion!? The responses highlighted for me how well-established and well-loved the Compost Ed Centre is after 30 years of operation.



We want to share our many thanks to everyone who filled out a survey! We compiled the responses into a short PowerPoint to provide some context to our strategic planning.


What has resonated for me most in this role and what we have learned from you all is how the Compost Ed Centre creates impact through education and research. On one level, we transfer technical skills that empower workshop participants, site volunteers, university students, and schoolkids to take on climate mitigation and adaptation action. But on another – and more profound – level, we integrate folks into our community of plants and people. The Compost Ed Centre cultivates an increased sense of connectivity and reciprocity, and we do it by sharing knowledge in a welcoming way.

I can speak personally to how welcomed I have felt to this role and to the Compost Ed Centre’s community. I want to highlight how fortunate I’ve been to work with Alexis so much over the past few months as she has transitioned out of the Executive Director role. The pandemic and post-pandemic inflation has hit nonprofits hard, but Alexis’s steady and wise tenure as Executive Director made it possible for me to step into this role with a confident rather than crisis mindset. Amidst so much change in the world, I feel reassured that the Compost Ed Centre will continue to thrive in the same way for the next 30 years by catching and mixing folks right on into our community – just like the browns and greens in a hot compost pile.

Haven’t yet hopped into the hot compost pile?

Become a member of our community today!

We want to express our gratitude to the Government of Canada’s Community Service Recovery Fund, which has made our strategic planning work possible. The Community Services Recovery Fund is a one-time $400 million investment from the Government of Canada to support community service organizations, including charities, non-profits and Indigenous governing bodies, as they adapt and modernize their organizations. We have been able to engage in the staff retreat and other strategic planning activities with the support of the CSRF.

By Claire Remington, Executive Director


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Victoria’s Vital Signs Report

October 12, 2023

Vital signs is a check-up that measures vitality of a region, identifies concerns, and supports action on issues that are important for our quality of life. Each year the Victoria Foundation shares this check-up in a report. This year, the Compost Education Centre is featured in the Environmental Sustainability section.

Read the report



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Help us build more boulevard gardens!

October 5, 2023

Hey residents of Fairfield-Gonzales!
The Compost Education Centre is on a continued mission to see as many boulevard gardens growing in your neighbourhood as possible! We’re hoping to help some folks on this journey in November – by sheet mulching a boulevard together!
If you have an adjacent boulevard to where you live and are able to obtain permission to start a garden on that boulevard from the homeowner, or you have a neighbour who’s into it, please reach out! We’d love to host an onsite workshop to sheet mulch your boulevard (creating an in-situ compost pile) so that it’s ready to plant into come spring! Reach out to Kayla at for more info and to tell us a little bit about your situation!
By Kayla Siefried, Site Manager and Community Education Coordinator
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Seven Years of Success with the Healing City Soils Program

October 1, 2023

The Healing City Soils (HCS) program dismantles barriers to people growing their own food; educates on how soil health is vital to local ecosystems, community wellbeing, and climate change mitigation; and builds community around restoring damaged soils. The program is a partnership between the Compost Education Centre (CEC) and Royal Roads University (RRU). On August 28th, the HCS community came together at Hatley Castle on the RRU campus to watch – and celebrate – undergraduate environmental science students present the results from the program’s seventh successful year of implementation.

Soil testing can be expensive, and the results are often complex, confusing, and disheartening. The uncertainty of soil contamination, the expense of soil testing, and the opaqueness of soil testing results are all barriers that prevent people from growing their own food. The RRU students addressed these barriers and furthermore, they educated on the importance of soil health. There were other environmental science students, Capital Regional District (CRD) growers and gatherers, CEC staff, RRU professors and staff, and friends and family in attendance; and the audience walked away with an improved understanding and appreciation for soil health.


Have questions about your soil quality? Stay connected!

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Over the course of eight months, two student groups in Professor Matt Dodd’s environmental science major project course performed literature reviews, designed research questions, learned new laboratory protocols, and engaged in hands-on environmental science.

Both student groups competently explained their science, shared their challenges, provided recommendations for next year’s crop of students, and tackled critical barriers to scaling up sustainable food systems in the CRD.

The first student group focused on providing free heavy metal soil testing of backyards, community gardens, boulevard gardens, and traditional harvesting sites in the Capital Regional District (CRD) to 100 food grower and gatherer program participants; this is part of the CEC’s long-term HCS program. All participants received the results of their heavy metal soil tests alongside easy-to-understand educational materials like the CEC’s factsheet on soil contamination. The results will be incorporated into an interactive online map.


Do you think this research is cool?

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The second student group was drawn in by the questions of the Ground Beneath Our Feet (GBOF) pilot that the CEC started in 2020; the GBOF group analyzed the potential of using plants, compost, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) to remediate soils contaminated with heavy metals. AMF naturally occur in many habitats, and they improve plant nutrition, stress resistance and tolerance, soil structure and fertility. The students maintained three different pilot sites where they tested soil quality and plant tissue for heavy metals, planted and maintained plants hypothesized to be bioaccumulators, and applied compost and AMF. The students found the combination of woolly sunflower, compost, and AMF to be effective in remediating contaminated soils.


We are so grateful to the First West Foundation’s for making this work possible!

By Claire Remington, Executive Director






Posted in Uncategorized

Finalist for Nature Inspiration Awards

September 21, 2023

Healing City Soils is a finalist for the Canadian Museum of nature’s Community Action Nature Inspiration Award!  The award celebrates community groups who show leadership in taking action to protect wildlife and habitats, training volunteers and citizen-scientists, or in developing new educational programs for children and adults. The Healing City Soils program analyzes the CRD’s soil health, researches how native plants can be used to remediate contaminated soils, and provides plain language resources and resources to households interested in growing their food safely. 


Learn about the Healing City Soils Program Posted in Announcement, Blog

The Red Wriggler Revue movie night September 28

September 14, 2023

Mites! Camera! Action!

The Compost Education Centre will be hosting the first Red Wriggler Revue on September 28th from 6:30-9. Come by for a screening of the 1998 Pixar classic, A Bug’s Life! Admission is by donation and there will be popcorn for sale. We invite you to bring other snacks and wear something cozy.

Accessibility: The pathways of the garden are comprised of woodchips. There is also about a 1″ step between the bathroom platform and the bathroom. There is wheelchair-accessible parking located directly outside of the Centre along North Park Street. There are three hoses with potable water located on site. There is a ramp into the strawbale building, chairs will be provided.

Posted in Events, Featured, News

Shaping Our 3-Year Strategic Plan

September 14, 2023

The fall is a time for fresh starts. As students head back to school and our child and youth programming kicks off, we’re laying the foundation for our three-year strategic plan. So much has happened in the past three years that we’re taking a moment to reflect on the challenges and successes, gather insights from our community, and come together and connect.

The CEC’s staff, board, and volunteers met the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic with innovation, commitment, and care. External demand for the educational services offered by the CEC increased significantly in the first two years of the pandemic. COVID-19 greatly impacted supply chains and availability of food, and, in parallel, lockdowns and social distancing protocols offered a moment for community members to begin gardening and composting. The CEC was able to provide educational resources that were extremely popular and led to more people growing food and making compost. We observed a significant increase in our membership, retail sales, web hits, and phone calls.

The increase in demand for CEC’s services stretched the organization’s internal resources and capacity. The CEC’s five-person staff rapidly responded to the pandemic by teaching workshops over Zoom, creating take-home educational kits, and modifying the demonstration site’s visiting hours.

As a whole, the organization continues to adapt and grow, and in February 2023, the CEC hired me (hello!) as the new Executive Director.

Last week, we went out to Shirley, BC for our staff retreat. It was wonderful to take time for nature, snacking, and intentional conversations. We spent some time on Muir Creek Beach and French Beach: Elora wandered off looking at all the mosses and flowers; Zoe-Blue identified loons and sea lions through her binoculars; Kayla facilitated some funny team-building games; and Jeffrey and Claire almost lost a Frisbee to the ocean waves. We talked about our strengths and areas of growth, both as individuals and as an organization. We discussed how power works in our organization and how we hold ourselves accountable for how the organization wields its powers. Overall, we came away with a greater feeling of connection to each other and more clarity on how we might be more impactful as an organization moving forward.

We’re going to be taking those thoughts with us into the strategic planning days that we’re having with our board at the end of September. To help contextualize our conversations, we have been surveying our community via an online questionnaire.

Interested in helping shape our 3-year strategic plan?

Fill out this form here – and enter in your email to win a prize!

We’ve already received such wonderful feedback from you all. In response to the question, “How will we know we are succeeding?” one respondent shared,

We have a team of staff who feel supported, thriving programs and services, connections with many partners in the community, and we are working in alignment with our organizational values and principles.

We’re so grateful for you all – and we do feel supported! We know that the next three years will be full of challenges, and we are confident in our ability as an organization to strengthen our community’s resilience and ability to adapt to those challenges.

Excited to hear about what happens behind the scenes?

Become a member of our growing community today!


We are so grateful to have received funding through the Government of Canada’s Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF). The Community Services Recovery Fund is a one-time $400 million investment from the Government of Canada to support community service organizations, including charities, non-profits and Indigenous governing bodies, as they adapt and modernize their organizations. We have been able to engage in the staff retreat and other strategic planning activities with the support of the CSRF.

“I am continually impressed by the passion, dedication, and creativity of community service organizations, like the Compost and Education Centre. I am equally proud the Government of Canada has supported their important work through the Community Services Recovery Fund. By investing in these organizations and their projects we can help to create a more just and equitable society, where everyone has opportunities to succeed. I look forward to seeing the positive impact of this investment in (community name) over the years to come.”

– Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development


By Claire Remington, Executive Director







Posted in Blog, News

CEC Annual General Meeting

September 13, 2023

At our Annual General Meeting (AGM), staff and board members of the CEC will review the important work that the organization accomplished in 2022. We will recap educational program achievements, new projects and programs, and discuss some of the ways that the CEC adapted its offerings to serve the public throughout the pandemic.

Want to join our Board of Directors? Find out how here!

CEC members in good standing will have the opportunity to vote on decisions that affect the future of the organization, including helping to elect new members to our Board of Directors. Members in good standing who attend the AGM will also be entered to win a door prize which can be picked up at the Compost Education Centre in following days.

Anyone can attend the CEC’s AGM. For members and non-members, attending our AGM is a great way to support the CEC and learn more about the work that we do here!


Posted in Announcement, Blog, Events