In Conversation with Susanna Millar

By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen (GNH Community Journalist/Blogger)


What’s your brief background – family, education, and work? How did you find out about Gordon Neighbourhood House? What was your original interest in us?

My background and how I came to know GNH are closely linked. I studied social work and have always had an interest in agriculture. I had travelled and worked on several farms abroad as a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and always knew I wanted to incorporate this passion into my work somehow. Trying to connect my love of agriculture with social work seemed tricky at first, until I became familiar with the work GNH was doing around food and community. The GNH food philosophy was inspiring to me, and I felt this was a place where food could be grown locally with the community, cooked together, and shared over laughs. I am now grateful to be part of it.

Any suggestions for others to become involved with us? Any suggestions in ‘spreading the word’ via social media, word of mouth, newspapers, blog posts, articles, and so on?

We are always looking for folks to get more involved at the house. As cheesy as it sounds I truly believe there is something for everyone here. My suggestion is to check out our programs online or at the front desk, and if there’s something that interests you, sign up! We are also always hosting special events, so it is important to sign up for our newsletter and check out our Facebook page so you don’t miss those. If you see an event, post, or article that you like, chances are your friends might like it too- so be sure to share! GNH is a great place to meet new people, and I often hear stories of long lasting friendships that began at an event, in a program, or through volunteering. Don’t be shy…once you attend something you’ll be part of the GNH family.

You are a farmer and community programmer for Gordon Neighbourhood House. What are your tasks and responsibilities in that role?

As the farmer/community programmer I look after the GNH urban farms and community herb gardens around the West End. With 4 farms and 10 herb gardens to date, it’s safe to say I can’t keep up without an enormous amount of help from volunteers. The urban farm team is incredibly keen, and we go out each week to look after whatever needs to be done (weeding, watering, harvesting, and way more). Together we have learned how to maximize our space with salad greens, companion plant, troubleshoot with pests, and attract pollinators.  Once the produce is ready it gets harvested and brought back to Chef Peter, or one of our many other food related programs at the house.

Gordon Neighbourhood House wants to make the West End a better place to “live and grow” whilst remaining “sensitive to the ever changing needs of the diverse groups of people” in the neighbourhood. What do you see as the importance of this message and work by Gordon Neighbourhood House?

Being a better place to live and grow means all people feel welcome in this space. When I say there is something for everyone here, it means we strive to ensure that each person who walks in the door finds something important to them: English conversation class, a new friend, a tasty meal with neighbours, or a treasure at the attic.  It also means that this person has something to offer which makes this place grow alongside them: maybe they raise issues that affect seniors at the seniors’ lounge, or are looking to get their hands dirty at the farms, or find themselves starting a dance party at a Young Ideas event. With the West End being a fairly diverse community with a wide set of skills, interests and challenges, we see GNH mirroring such diversity in our programming and activities. This must also come with a commitment to critical conversations around how to make this community better in the future, and advocating to see that change happen.


Where do you hope Gordon Neighbourhood House moves forward into the future?

It is my hope that Gordon House continues to grow in the direction it is headed. I dream of a place with farms on all sides, food in all rooms, and conversation amongst all people. As I say this however, I am sitting at the front desk on a regular Thursday night at GNH and it feels pretty good. The Rainbow Soup Social is cooking up a meal for the Community Food Hub tomorrow and it smells amazing, “Mexican Fiesta soup” they say. In room 1 there’s a free documentary film screening about the Site C dam, with a Coast Salish welcome song and drum. A couple regulars are chatting in the lobby over some coffee, and curious people come and go from the thrift store. I just commented to someone that I hoped to pop in to see the film because “it’s pretty quiet right now”. If this is quiet, I think it’s fair to say we’ve hit a pretty high point. I trust it will continue to grow from here.

Thank you for your time, Susanna.


Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger. He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing.