Thought for Food: Agrarian movement bringing new life to Creston Valley farming

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Hi, folks! This week’s column focuses on a major grassroots cultural shift, a school of philosophical thought and practice: the new agrarian movement. The new agrarian movement is composed of farmers, gardeners, food enthusiasts and public organizations desiring a return to agriculture based on sustainable practices.

Sustainable agriculture involves methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources, and promote long-term health of the land and community. In simplest terms, it is growing an abundance of “good, clean and fair” food. This helps local economies, with the ultimate goal of regional food security. Our phenomenal Creston Valley Farmers’ Market is a shining example of this principle in action.

However, even with all the agricultural blessings of our valley, there is a massive shortage of local food. More sustainable farms are required. Canada’s farming population is shrinking and getting older; 55 is the average age of farmers in Canada. Less than five per cent of farmers are 34 and younger. Our province has the oldest farmers in country.

The good news is this lost generation of farmers are returning. The Young Agrarians (YA) initiative is an example of a program that is working to inspire, support, and network young farmers and encourage the new agrarian movement. YA hosts workshops and events across the country and develops resources to support new entrants into agriculture.

Our Kootenay YA representatives are Laura Hannant, 29, and Nigel Francis, 31, a couple who live in Erickson on six acres of beautiful hillside. They are certified organic farmers who grow herbs, fruit and vegetables. Laura and Nigel personify the new agrarian movement: strikingly intelligent, caring and passionate food activists.

They are taking a slow and deliberate approach to farming. This year they will be providing weekly food boxes to 20 local families by pickup or delivery and larger volumes to select clients. Some farm gate sales are also available. Laura and Nigel are transitioning to full-time farming and dream of a farm that provides a viable livelihood for their family and perhaps work for other valley residents.

This fine couple is part of a younger demographic flocking to the valley with an intent to farm sustainably. I am grateful for their presence in our valley and the new agrarian shift they are a part of.

Derek Doyle is an organic farmer and a director on the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition board.