News

Islands Agriculture Show plants seed for a new future in Vancouver Island farming

Josh Larson prepares for the morning milking at a Cherry Point farm back in 2006. With the state of Vancouver Island agriculture in a constant state of evolution, the first Islands Agricultural Show at the Cowichan Exhibition is designed to give both new and veteran farmers a leg up. - Angie Poss/file
Josh Larson prepares for the morning milking at a Cherry Point farm back in 2006. With the state of Vancouver Island agriculture in a constant state of evolution, the first Islands Agricultural Show at the Cowichan Exhibition is designed to give both new and veteran farmers a leg up.
— image credit: Angie Poss/file

Examine the history of the Cowichan Valley, and you’ll find a tale of strong reliance on farming.

The valley — along with the rest of the island — used to produce vegetables, berries and dairy products by the ton that fed a large percentage of the population.

That’s all changed as population has increased.

In fact, statistics show that in 1969, Vancouver Island grew 70 per cent of its own food. Forty years later, that percentage had plummeted to less than five per cent.

To put it bluntly, if the ferries stopped running today, we’d have food for only three days, says Geoff Millar, Cowichan economic development manager.

Organizers of the first annual Islands Agriculture Show are hoping the two-day event Friday and Saturday will be the first step in a trend back to self sufficiency.

“The principal focus is to educate farmers to make them better farmers and support the work that they do,” Millar said.

The show consists of a trade show and conference. The trade show is open to the public.

“I’m all for it. It’s a big deal,” says David Quist of Westholme’s Quist Farm who plans to attend the event.

“Anything that can we done to promote agriculture is important,” Quist stressed.

Quist says it’s been encouraging recently to see more people with smaller holdings in farming.

“I believe the island can produce a lot of than we do,” he said.

“Yes, I’ll be there,” echoes Pastula Farm’s Catherine Pastula. “I’m looking forward to representing the Island Farmers’ Alliance.”

A North Cowichan vegetable farmer, Pastula says she’ll be at the Alliance booth and will also attend conference sessions.

“I’ll be looking for further exposure for farmers and hopefully seeking corporate sponsorship for the alliance,” she said.

“Agriculture has traditionally been seen as a small economic sector on Vancouver Island,” says Kathy Lachman of Economic Development Cowichan, one of the lead organizations behind the IAS.

“We believe farmers here have the potential to play a pivotal role in Vancouver Island’s food self-sufficiency, as well as provide products to the Canadian and global marketplace, and this show will be one of the steps forward in this direction.”

The show stems partly from recommendations in a 2009 report on the state of agriculture in the Cowichan Valley to develop a plan for boosting the sector.

Major prongs were to provide a healthy, high quality diet for people living here and tourists; and to preserve the character, environment and quality of life of the community.

Also included in the plan were recommendations to form an agricultural development committee and to employ an agricultural development officer.

Co-sponsored by Top shelf Feeds and Farm Credit Canada, next week’s event features a 60-exhibit trade show. Also scheduled is a slew of conference sessions spread over two days.

Lachman says both the 16 workshops (which have sold out) and the trade show will showcase what Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands offer.

She’s optimistic that the event will raise the profile of the region’s agriculture on the provincial and federal stage and get people talking about local farming.

Diversity and scale of farm operations will be the theme of the conference as speakers discuss farm business management, production, small farm development and government and industry programs.

“The workshops are for people who are currently farming and also for those wanting to be farmers,” Millar said.

One session for example features a presentation by eastern Canada’s Dr. John Fast on succession planning.

“Farmers are interested in what happens to the farm when they retire,” Millar said.

Diversity and scale of farm operations will be the theme of the conference as speakers discuss farm business management, production, small farm development and government and industry programs.

Organizers say the  show will be appropriate for the large and small farmer, new and experienced, as well as for various products.

“It will be interesting for the public to wander round the trade show,” Millar said.

On Friday, there’ll be demonstrations for children,” he explained. He said Poultry in Motion will show youngsters and others the life cycle of poultry and how to care for them.

The concession will be hosted by Just Jakes and feature local food, he said.

B.C. Minister of Agriculture Don McRae and Comox Valley MLA will officially open the conference at 9 a.m. Friday.

 

Your ticket:

What: Islands Agriculture Show

When: Feb. 3, 4; 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where: Cowichan Exhibition Park

Tickets: $5 at the door. Call 250-748-0822.

 

 

 

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Community Events, July 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Jul 23 edition online now. Browse the archives.