I have just finished a fabulous course at Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island on Growing for Market. Having been inspired by the magnificently beautiful surroundings, enthusiastic and passionate participants, and the expertise that Michael Ableman, Jeanne Marie Herman, and Josh Volk possess, I am quite certain that growing food is something I just have to do at some point.
I have had the pleasure of touring around Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island to meet farmers, chefs, family, and make new friends who just seem to get “it”. There are definitely many obstacles to a smoothly operating local food system that could support the demand in the area, but it seems as though there are also many projects that are really progressive and making serious and positive change happen.
Haliburton Farm is one such example. A handful of growers in a residential community in Saanich have come together to create a community friendly space to grow food and show people what is possible in urban settings. The individual growers come together to co-market their products at the on-site farm stand, and take their stunning products to the Moss Street Market in Victoria on Saturdays. This co-operative relationship between small growers is making it possible and sustainable for the people involved to remain and thrive in agriculture.
Food Roots is offering Pocket Markets in many different forms in neighbourhoods around Victoria making sure that small local farms are prioritized as suppliers and helping to distribute their beautiful food. Food Roots has also just started a wholesale produce outlet for food service and retail operations in the city to access truly local and sustainable food. Lee Fuge was very generous with her time to show me the projects and to discuss the similarities and differences between FoodShare Toronto’s Good Food Markets and the Pocket Markets of Victoria
The Land Conservancy, although just having gone through major changes on the Board of Directors and some staff changes, strives to protect land in British Columbia for agriculture, recreation, culture, and nature.
Providence Farm is a beautiful example of a multi-faceted organization that nurtures people in a therapeutic environment filled with plants and good food. This year Providence farm hosted the Feast of Fields event pairing chefs and local producers cooking up a storm as a fundraiser for local sustainable food systems.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ramona Scott who is now working with Local Food Plus to roll out the certification program in BC. Whether or not it will take hold is yet to be seen, but thus far there is interest from six or seven producers and strategy in place to get some retail stores to promote LFP certified products. Ms. Scott thinks that having a definition of what is local and what is sustainable will really help to reduce the ambiguity that exists for the consumer trying to make better choices.
And then there are the producers, of course, who make it all happen. On Salt Spring Island I was very happy to visit Moonstruck Organic Cheese, using Jersey milk; Salt Spring Island Cheese, using goat and sheep milk; Foxglove Farm’s uber-high quality vegetables; Deerholme Farm salad greens; Fol Epi making breads and pastry with freshly ground red fife wheat; Frog Song Farm supplying the Duncan Farmers’ Market; AppleLuscious with countless varieties of apples and host of the Salt Spring Island apple festival; and the Archers raising water buffalo at Fairburn Farm alongside Mara Jernigan’s culinary retreat paradise.
It was all very exciting to see how the food community works in a new place and to acknowledge the challenges that they all face. Again, it comes down to big companies having a big share of the market, distribution for those companies becoming more and more centralized and inaccessible for smaller producers, and market price becoming too low with which to compete. The local grocery chain Thrifty’s is now owned by Sobeys and it is one example of how local control is being lost on Vancouver Island and all over BC.
So why doesn’t everyone in Canada move to BC? I’m not sure, it seems like paradise there and I may just take everyone’s advice and move on out to Vancouver Island where the growing season lasts all year. Not to mention, the mushrooming is fantastic!