Coming out of dormancy: Food System Activity in the Winter Months

Although it’s still considered the time of year when the food system is resting and rejuvenating, so much is happening ‘underground.’ This is the time of year when farmers, ranchers, and seed savers get together to share stories, practices, and plans for the year ahead.

Events that have taken place around the province include the Pacific Ag Show, a soil workshop in Williams Lake, Bridging Gaps hosted by the Land to Table Network of the North Okanagan, the annual conference of the Certified Organic Associations of BC (in Richmond this year), and the Economic Unity Conference here in Kamloops.

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I had the good fortune of participating in a panel discussion at the Islands Ag Show in Duncan, in early February, as part of a pre-conference session related to building regional agriculture supports across BC. In a nutshell, groups across the province are thinking into how to revitalize historical extension services in a way that meets contemporary needs. There is a strong push for more peer to peer supports to share knowledge and skills through site visits.

This fits incredibly well with one of the projects that Kamloops Food Policy Council is exploring, which is the formation of a farmers institute. We’re getting closer to having a public meeting to discuss what Farmers Institutes are and the role that they play in the community (which is a big one with their monthly gatherings to share information and education, as well as being called on to attend meetings with various levels of government). Stay tuned for more details about this public meeting which would get us one step closer to creating a Farmers Institute...if there is enough interest from the farming and ranching community around Kamloops.

Amongst the nonprofits in attendance at the Islands Ag Show, there were common threads of doing great work bringing cross sector groups together. At the same time, the nonprofits shared a struggle for core funding to keep relationships and projects alive. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, wherein strong working relationships are essential to project development and yet there isn’t the underlying funds in nonprofits to coordinate, facilitate, and share information from these meetings.

Even though there is a need for stable and ongoing core funding, we also value bringing food back into the commons, where it is accessible to all (this means not charging to participate in the program). One such program that we are excited about is our seed library. It is starting to thrive with an influx of donated seed and this is the time of year when everyone is going ga-ga over seeds (March is full of seed swaps and garden planning).

The KFPC established a Community Seed Library in Kamloops with the intent to promote seed-saving, seed sharing, and local biodiversity. We recently received a generous donation of seeds from the BC Eco Seed Coop and from Salt Spring Seeds, so we have a good supply of unusual beans, peas, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The seeds are free to “borrow”, and although we hope to get some fresh seed back at the end of the season, there is no obligation.

If you’d like to check out our collection, you can find us at Seedy Saturday, March 14, from 10am to 2pm, at the OLPH Parish Center, or at the upcoming TRU Films For Change screening of Seed to Seed, a documentary about the growing momentum of regenerative agriculture, on Wednesday, March 25.

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