On Nov. 12, over 100 Creston Valley residents attended a public forum for candidates running in the Nov. 19 civic elections. Organized by Tamara Fox, Joanne Ferry and Jesse Willicome (who acted as moderator), the forum was the only opportunity for voters to question the candidates running for town council, mayor and Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B director.
Of Creston’s 13 town council candidates, 10 — Justin Lysohirka, Ingrid Voigt, Malcolm Ferguson, Renee Kyle, Scott Veitch, Wes Graham, Rhonda Barter, Ed Vondracek, Joanna Wilson and Jerry Schmalz — attended, while Tanya Ducharme, Judy Gadicke and Louis Mihaly did not.
Both candidates for mayor, Ron Toyota and Joe Snopek, attended, although Toyota didn’t arrived until the fifth question was read.
Ed McNiven was the sole RDCK candidate at the forum; incumbent John Kettle did not attend.
The candidates fielded both pre-selected questions and impromptu questions from the audience.
Do you support Creston being an entirely organic valley?
Ron Toyota: “I think that we have 30,000 acres in the Creston Valley. … That’s where this area started way, way, way back. … But we also have to be careful when we say organic because we know that there’s marketers and there’s promoters out there, and I think they tend to overuse the word. It’s like when we started out with ‘light’ and ‘sugar-free’ and all these other things. I think it’s a good thing, but I think that we have to approach it with a lot of caution.”
Justin Lysohirka: “I do support the community going organic, but on a different side of the coin, I also see it as being very expensive.”
Ingrid Voigt: “On another end of the scale, I think our ALR lands need to be preserved, simply because they’re not making any more land.” A real estate agent, she recently showed clients rural land that was going to be subdivided. “They said, ‘If that’s what they’re going to do out there, we don’t want to buy out here.’ Another thing I would encourage is no GMO foods in the valley, period.”
Malcolm Ferguson: “I’m a firm supporter of organic farming, although I think it should be voluntary. There are a number of organic farmers in valley now that I’m quite familiar with. I know how much it costs to raise a pound of carrots and a pound of garlic organically … and I know it costs more than it does if it’s not organic. … If you want organic, you can certainly buy it here, but I don’t think it’s going to be a viable situation to make the entire valley go organic.”
Renee Kyle: “The most exciting idea that’s come out of this election to me is the idea of an organic valley, a tourist destination. Perhaps [with] the fruit we grow organically, we can produce our own label of fruit juices and jams and jellies. You might say it’s a dream, and it is, but it’s exciting. … I could come up with a thousand ideas and reasons why it’s not possible, but the little engine said, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’ ”
Scott Veitch: “It’s a nice idea, but something to work towards, perhaps as a long-term goal. How do you impose that concept on existing farmers that are hardly viable at this rate? It’s probably a transitional idea for new farmers. … We sold an orchard this summer to an organic group out of Edmonton; they’re gone all organic with cherries and apples and whatnot. … What is the financial burden? How do you monitor this? … If it’s achievable, it would be a great thing to happen, but I really don’t think it is achievable.”
Wes Graham: “My parents grew organic garlic for a few years and had their land certified organic. It was an interesting concept, for sure. I think the thing we need to do is encourage best practices, and educate people around the benefits of pursuing that.”
Rhonda Barter: “This is a conversation that has to be done with farmers; they’re the ones who have to make a living off of it.” The concepts of socially- and environmentally-friendly farming should be encouraged. “That’s what’s bringing equilibrium to supply and demand way up. … But I totally believe it should be a lot of education and not legislated.” It should be encouraged as a niche market.
Ed Vondracek: “Being an organic valley sounds great, but do you remember the SIR (Sterile Insect Release) program? Organic would have to be farmer-driven in order to succeed. And again, we’re treading on private enterprise. … I’m a consumer not a grower, and the growers have to get it going on their own, with the help of the government.”
Joanna Wilson: The Creston Valley Farmers’ Market promotes “fresh, locally grown produce and encourage people to buy it instead of things that have come from far away. I think that is the way to go.” She also cited the community supported agriculture grain project. “With things like that, I would hope we can promote and showcase our valley for what it is — a magnificent agricultural valley.”
Joe Snopek: “Organic farming brings visions of the SIR program, and it created a disconnect even between the farmers themselves. It really has to be thought out … and producer-driven.”
Jerry Schmalz: “I would support it … but I don’t believe it’s sustainable and it’s unrealistic. The cherry industry, in its present state, would likely collapse without the use of pesticides. … The public would have to be willing to subsidize the farmers. … I, myself, was farming organic garlic and in the third year, my crop was destroyed by a pest that I couldn’t control.”
Ed McNiven: His son-in-law owns Beltane Nursery. “He is as organic as he can get. And he cannot go 100 per cent organic. … He would prefer to be totally organic, but does have to spray. … It would cost him a fortune to go totally organic. When you have people on both sides of you that are not organic, how can you go totally organic?”