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CBC Radio 1 Interview – Don Genova’s Island Artisans

Farmer Derek (Photo courtesy Don Genova)

Had the “pleasure” of hearing my nasally voice on CBC Radio 1 this afternoon. Through the magic of radio and digital editing, Don Genova crafted a great interview that highlighted the key features and direct marketing approach of our small farm operation. It was a nice way to reveal what we have been working at since leaving the limelight of the UBC Farm seven and a half years ago. Checkout the print version of the interview on Don’s Blog.

Organic Conference Sidney, BC 2011

Spent the day recovering from the eventful, informative, inspiring and delicious COABC Conference that was held in Sidney, BC over the weekend. Learned lots, met some great people and saw folks I have haven’t seen in quite some time. A few stand out presentations for me included: anti-GMO MP Alex Atamanenko‘s welcome speech; the semi-virtual tour of Hermann and Louis Bruns’ Wild Flight Farm;  Alec McErlich’s (Earthbound Farm) thorough review of physical and ecological weed management approaches, and Anthony Nicalo’s (Foodtree)  thought provoking and personal keynote on the need for  Slow Money.

The event left me both inspired and also overwhelmed – inspired because there are so many competent growers out there in BC that are innovating and pushing what is possible to achieve on one’s farm. Overwhelmed, because I have so much left to learn…

For those that missed the event, I understand that conference presentations will eventually be posted on the COABC website.

Mary Forstbauer busy knitting at the registration table.

MP Alex Atamanenko welcoming conference participants.

Hermann Bruns explaining how his packing shed pallet dollies work.

VanCity's David Berge explaining their interest and commitment to financing local food and farming initiatives.

Anthony Nicalo emphasizing the need for slow money for slow food.

COABC President, Brad Reid, honouring the conference organizers, Rochelle Eisen and Lee Fuge.

Ecological Design 101

Watercolour conception of the University of Victoria rendered for Robert W. Siddall by artist Allan W. Edwards. Includes caption: "a beautifully landscaped quadrangle, 300 ft. by 900 ft., will be the centre of the campus, forming a park-like setting, free of vehicles for the main buildings," ca. 1962. (Source: George N.Y. Simpson photo of watercolour, UVic Archives 47.101.)

Spent the evening discussing ecological and agroecological design with a class of Environmental Studies undergraduates at the University of Victoria. I always find it interesting to back at the ‘ol Alma Mater. It seems like only yesterday I was sitting in their seats listening to lectures from so-called outside ‘experts.’ Truth be known, during my five years studying ecology and geography at UVic, I never once had the opportunity to hear someone talk about ecological design. Times, they are a changing!

Galiano Agriculture, Community and the Environment Conference

A community, however small, may be known by its citizens and by the care of its farms and farmers, if it is fortunate to have them.

I just returned from a day-long conference hosted by the Galiano Community Food Program entitled, From the Table to the Field: Turning Discussion into Action. Close to one hundred people attended the event which was held in the ‘South End’ Community Hall. Participants were treated to Brian Brett reading passages from his book, “Trauma Farm,” presentations from John Wilcox from Salt Spring Island and Heather Pritchard from FarmFolk/CityFolk. I gave a short presentation on the challenge of connecting land, food and community. Folks from a variety of island organizations introduced us to the amazing work they are doing on their islands. Details of the event can be found at GCFP’s website.

The conference was wonderfully hopeful and indicates that a local food movement is taking root right here in our ‘backyard.’ I am so used to attending or hearing about events like this that happen somewhere else – in then Lower Mainland, the US or Europe. While they are interesting, informative and invigorating events, when I leave, the energy and sense of solidarity is difficult to maintain as they are too far removed from our farm – our reality. It was refreshing and inspiring to be reminded that something is happening here on and in our island communities. Kudos to the organizers and the fine folks, farmers, foodies of Galiano Island who demonstrated what is possible with a bit of hard work, creativity and cooperation. Thank you again for everything!

Leveraging Food

Today I had the good fortune of spending the afternoon with a class of students enrolled in the Royal Roads Masters in Environmental Management program. I was asked by Derek Thompson, the instructor of the Sustainable Development and Governance course, to talk about my work and experiences in the fields of agriculture and food system planning and design. Rather than taking the tried and true approach of a formal presentation, supported by a slew of clarifying powerpoint slides, we chose the option of convening a series of lively discussions, using the World Cafe approach, focused on the University’s approach to food including how and if the University could become more involved in food and agriculture issues. I’m not sure how the students found the whole session. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it was a wee bit too short (after 2 hours we just seemed to be getting started). I especially enjoyed listening to the students discuss and grapple with the issue of how food is or might be considered and dealt with by the academy.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was becoming reacquainted with the work of Donella Meadows. Donella, or Dana as she was better known, was a remarkable woman, academic and scientist who had a gift for explaining complex ideas and theories in a way that was both engaging and accessible. She is probably best known for her work on the seminal book Limits to Growth which was published in 1972. But her essay, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System stands out as a classic – one that has greatly influenced my work and life over the past 10 years since I first read it . (I took opportunity to introduce the students to it as I think it will be helpful to them as they grapple with issues of governance, control and their desire for change.)

I’ll conclude this post with a quote from the concluding chapter to the book, Beyond the Limits, which Dennis Meadows, her former husband and co-author, attributes to her. It speaks directly to the challenge that we face as practitioners and as human beings,

It is difficult to speak of or to practice love, friendship, generosity, understanding, or solidarity within a system whose rules, goals, and information streams are geared for lesser human qualities. But we try, and we urge you to try. Be patient with yourself and others as you and they confront the difficulty of a changing world. Understand and empathize with inevitable resistance; there is some resistance, some clinging to the ways of unsustainability, within each of us. Include everyone in the new world. Everyone will be needed. Seek out and trust the best human instincts in yourself and in everyone. Listen to the cynicism around you and pity those who believe it, but don’t believe it yourself.