Fields Forward: Network encourages collaborative agriculture partnerships in Creston Valley

Web Lead

Paris Marshall Smith is the co-ordinator of the Creston Valley's Fields Forward initiative.

Curious about what’s happening with Fields Forward? Maybe you are even asking what Fields Forward is.

Fields Forward is a food and agriculture initiative built on a model of collaborative partnerships that serves communities from Yahk to Riondel. In other words, since its launch in January of this year, a network has been built of over 80 public, private and community organizations and businesses, 60-plus meetings have been held, and nine working groups are organized and active, addressing key food and agriculture related issues in our region.

There is a community picnic happening June 18 at the splash playground in Centennial Park, and all are welcome. Fields Forward is hosting this celebration to share its successes from the last six months. Come on out to learn more about what Fields Forward is doing and how you can get involved.

To give a sense of what the network has been up to, here are some highlights:

•This year, the annual tomato plant sale was adopted by the Fields Forward food education working group, which, in partnership with the Dan McMurray Community Seed Bank, Brunham Farm Greenhouse and Cartwheel Farm, grew 225 heritage plants as a fundraiser for school-based food and agriculture education. On May 20, parents, students, community members and teachers gathered at Erickson Elementary School (EES) and raised over $600. The money will support the creation of a school garden at EES. In addition to working with EES, the food education group is also working with Yaqan Nukiy School and Crawford Bay Elementary Secondary School.

•The Fields Forward labour working group has found a place to build a campsite for this season’s orchard workers. A couple has generously come forward and offered a portion of their land for 25 campers. The working group is delighted by this positive step toward creating a welcoming place for the hundreds of orchard workers that come to our region each year. Still in the process of sorting out the details, the group will soon be making an announcement.

In the meantime, the group is looking for support to help create safe and healthy accommodations. Needed are propane tanks and propane, bicycles, picnic benches, deep freezers and fridges, garbage bags and dumpsters, dump fees, lawn games, cooking equipment, barbecues, tents (like those at the farmers’ market) and signage.

•On May 18, the Fields Forward food access group marketed and distributed over $1,200 of eggs, flour, asparagus and honey to the East Shore. Partners in this successful for-profit run included Just-a-Mere Farm, the Yasodhara Ashram, Black Salt Café and many individuals. The goal of this group is to find a way for smaller producers to come together and share the costs of distributing food to neighbouring markets. The group learned a lot from this experience and has the intention to do another run mid-June. Please be in touch if you have a product to sell and would like to collaborate on shared distribution. We are looking for strawberries, eggs, greens and meat.

•Starting the first week of July, the Creston Museum, in partnership with the Fields Forward food culture working group, will be hosting twice-a-week tours through the Creston Valley. Building on the success of last year, this year’s tours will expand to Yahk and Riondel, include more orchards and farms, and have a greater focus on the diversity of what is grown and produced in our region. For more information, contact the Creston Museum.

So please join in the community picnic and learn more about how we can strengthen food and agriculture in our region. All working groups — food education, food sustainability, food infrastructure, food labour, food culture, food extension & training, food access, food co-marketing and food farmers’ market — will be present to share their efforts and invite your input. There will be live music, games, surprises and prizes. Come out with your family and friends. Bring your picnic or enjoy our local food truck fare.

Paris Marshall Smith is the co-ordinator of Fields Forward. To learn more, contact her at paris@fieldsforward.ca or 1-855-660-5432 ext. 423.

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