In the spring, Stewardship Pemberton Society was invited to a workshop in Vancouver: Finding Common Ground hosted by the Sustainable Food Systems Working Group who aim to get more BC food on more BC plates.
Long story short, the B.C. Agri-Food and Seafood Strategic Growth Plan put forward by the Provincial government aims to increase domestic purchases of B.C. products by 43% by 2020, amongst other things. A herculean undertaking.
The goal of the Summit was to create a map to meet that target, primarily through suggestions to policy changes.
Being a grassroots organization, Stewardship Pemberton focuses less on talking and more on doing. However, participating in that think tank made me realize how influential policy and the people who create policy are.
Imagine if our hospitals, universities, schools and even restaurants were mandated to purchase 30% of their local produce from BC farms. If a portion of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve actually had to be producing food if not through the land owners, through innovate legal, collaborative agreements between young farmers who can’t afford land and the land owners who are required by law to farm? If the ALR facilitated smaller cooperative type farms with multiple dwellings and shared title for like-minded individuals to produce enough for multiple families (commune believers unite!). If you had to be a farmer to purchase farm land (this is actually a law in some countries already). Or if as a young farmer starting out, you could enter into an incubator farming program in nearly any community that allowed you to get your feet under you in a supportive manner through intergenerational information sharing while contributing to the local economy and food system? Imagine providing farmers with the financial stability they need through procurement protocols with regional food distributors. How about a world where our grocery store shelves were lined with BC apples nearly every month of the year because our storage facilities were on par with those in Washington.
Because these dreams are mandated through policy, people with power influence policy.
The room was filled with brilliant university professors, environmental lawyers, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, leaders from food processing plants, procurement reps with massive budgets, inspiring non-profit gods and goddesses who are changing the face of agriculture, the list goes on. When I looked at the list of keynote speakers and the purpose of the workshop, I was not sure I could contribute on the same level.
We have been working in partnership with the Village of Pemberton on the Pemberton Agricultural Parks Project for over a year, and while I see the incredible local potential in this project, I was not sure what made us qualify to have a seat at that particular table. Our project does not focus on selling food, but access to land to grow food for locals. However, the talented, grounded, professional agrologist that helped us with our project opened the Summit giving an overview of our plans in Pemberton. Throughout the Summit, we were used as an example of how to think outside the box. An example of when local government works with non-profits in a collaborative partnership, the nimble and adaptable nature of non-profits compliments local government, rooted in policy and procedure. Several times when discussing a point, the question of “How did you do that up in Pemberton?” was asked. I felt that Stewardship Pemberton had something to contribute, and that our project was valid.
I took away the importance of policy from this workshop, but also, how important collaboration is.
As a non-profit we are really great at local collaboration – it is one of our strengths. I know that this word is used in almost every sector right now, but it is so crucial to meaningful successful projects on a large scale. I love this scientific nugget from Danielle LaPorte, stating that we need each other to shine. I more often think about this in terms of my “tribe” but it applies to our crazy society. She says:
The vast majority of stars are binary. They actually live in pairs. From our distance, it looks like single stars hanging in the sky, but through powerful telescopes you’ll see that it’s very often a duo, huddled together. Stars require each other’s gravitational pull to coexist in. After thousands, like hundreds of thousands, of years, some stars will pull apart. And in star-time, they die relatively quickly without each other. ~ Danielle LaPorte
Shine on, Province of British Columbia and the constellations that surround you. Let’s get growing (but not too fast, let’s make sure that environmental protection is in place, First Nations are on board and involved, that everyone is working together….).
The Summit was sponsored by the Real Estate Foundation of BC. A big thank you to them for this service and for funding our Pemberton Agricultural Parks Project, alongside the Community Foundation of Whistler. Another big thank you to the Village of Pemberton who have worked with us to allow us to dream big.