As the inaugural year of trying a different approach to the strengthening the food and agriculture sector from Yahk to Riondel, 2016 was a big year. Since launching in January of last year, great and diverse efforts on the part of so many in our region have resulted in significant Fields Forward activity. Volunteers from the various working groups have contributed hundreds of hours to the advancement of the goals determined by the people that attended that first session and those that have come forward since. What began as a bold plan has been stretched and made real by the contribution of communities who see the potential of our region to use its abundance to benefit more people and families. The Impact Team members: Nicole Schreiber, Jen Comer, Laura Francis, Dave Mutch and Tanya Wall, have brought in their valuable perspective as entrepreneurs, managers, facilitators, community leaders and producers to help shape, direct and initiate. Kootenay Employment Services has provided the backbone support so essential during this formative stage.
By working together as a collaborative, the Fields Forward network is able to engage with complex issues that challenge the food and agriculture opportunities in our communities: economic growth, jobs, housing, marketing, distribution, access. By working in partnership with existing initiatives like the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition, East Shore Food Roots, Kootenay Food, Central Kootenay Food Policy Council, Kootenay Regional Food Producers Co-op and others, we can be more efficient in our actions, build greater levels of momentum and learn from each others experiences. The Central Kootenay Food Policy Council currently has three representatives from Creston & District – Dobrila Braunstein (Creston), Steve Kruse (Riondel) and Tanya Wall (Erickson). Interested in being on the Council? – there are two additional seats on the Council one for a Yaqan Nukiy/Lower Kootenay Band member and one for a commercial farmer from the Valley.
As Fields Forward continues to expand and define itself, it will also continue to work with the structure of Working Groups. Individuals and groups are invited to come forward with ideas that they feel would benefit the community, create economic opportunity or add value in some way to strengthening food and agriculture in Creston and District. Fields Forward supports nimble action from groups that respond to a need in our region and then disband once the goal is achieved.
The areas of focus for Fields Forward for 2017 are: 1.Procurement – how can we encourage increased sourcing of local products in our stores, restaurants and institutions. Currently a group on the East Shore is looking at this question and designing an event or two for the Fall and Spring of 2018 that would support producers to connect with those who can sell and celebrate local food and products.
2.Marketing and Distribution – as we look to increase value-added opportunities through infrastructure investments like the mobile press, how do we expand the marketing and distribution opportunities beyond the Creston and District to the Kootenays, BC, Alberta and beyond. How do we all grow together?
3.AgWorks – a working group has formed with the ambitious goal of increasing food and agriculture employment opportunities by 20% by 2020. For 2017, they want to add 10 new mentored food and agriculture jobs for this season.
4.Food and Culture – The Full Plate working group is celebrating the intersection of food/agriculture and art with a year long project. The project launched on January 15th and will collaborate with existing events and projects using art to highlight the processes that are required to make our food and agriculture from Yahk to Riondel.
5.Education – on April 8 & 9, innovative food educator Michael Becker will be coming to Creston for a two-day workshop and community event (evening of April 8th). This will be an exciting weekend for educators and teachers to learn simple and effective ways of bringing more food based education into the classroom. Tickets will go on sale at the end of the month. Stay tuned.
If you would like to learn more or have an idea and would like to get involved, please get in touch. And did you know that there is a Fields Forward newsletter – email for your name to be added. To join the conversation, come out on Saturday February 25th from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Fields Forward invites all those interested to an open house at Creston and District Recreation Centre or email email@example.com.
May it be an abundant year for all.