Tomatoes from ALM Organic Farm.

Get to know your farmer campaign launched

Sooke Food CHI begins awareness of local growers and producers with survey

Do you know zwhere your food comes from, or who your farmer is? If you answered, “No,” Sooke’s Food CHI is aiming to help you remedy that situation.

The Sooke Region Food CHI Society is launching its “Know Your Farmer” campaign. This campaign’s objective, as stated in the Executive Summary of the project proposal, is to develop “a concerted program of education, marketing and farmer support, … to increase the market share held by local farmers.”

A significant amount of funding for this project comes from the District of Sooke and the Juan de Fuca Economic Development Commission, who contributed $7,000 and $3,500 respectively. On September 3, B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture announced additional funding in the amount of $5,600 to be added to that pot, as a part of provincial initiatives to promote buying local.

The society will conduct a consumer education campaign along with hosting a workshop for local farmers to assist them in business development and online marketing.

Food CHI president Anita Wasiuta states that the funding is one component of their projects.

“Food CHI is able to deliver these programs and projects through the amazing volunteers within our community and beyond.  While volunteers provide the work, budgets are required to sustain supplies and projects.  We receive our funds through fundraising, grantsmanship and membership drives.”

Erika Rolston, coordinator for Sooke Region Food CHI, fills in the program details.

Food CHI has its eye on the longterm, with an ultimate goal to “support a farming community by helping them to become more economically sustainable,” said Rolston.

Rolston made the point that on any given day, “Vancouver Island has three days of food on its shelf, and we don’t have the infrastructure in place to distribute it locally. In order to have a resilient  and viable food system in place, we have to start now.”

The long term object of Food CHI is to create local self sufficiency: “We’re looking ahead to a time where we are food secure,” said Rolston. To get there, “we are taking an incremental approach” and continually stopping to measure progress.

This project, coined “Know Your Farmer,” is designed to move Sooke one step closer to self sufficiency.

So far, said Rolston, they’ve been focussing on the farmer. Now, it’s time to address the other critical component: the consumer.

With the funds they have received from provincial and municipal governments, Food CHI will be undertaking a comprehensive educational program.

To begin, Food CHI will conduct an online consumer survey to determine what the priorities of the consumer are. Rolston ran through the list: Is it price? ethics? nutrition?If the consumer is to be informed, then the information must be relevant to the consumers’ needs and priorities.

The survey is the first step in “getting people to think about where their food comes from,” said Rolston.

That survey is currently available at sookefoodchi.ca, through a text link at the bottom left hand corner of the page. Or, you can go directly to the survey at fluidsurveys.com/s/Sooke-grow-local/

The next step, once the survey results are in, is to compile the information and implement a two-prong approach targeting the consumer and the farmer. First, Food CHI will develop an awareness campaign that responds to the needs of the consumer, as guided by input received through the survey. Second, Food CHI will be doing workshops for local farmers that look at online marketing, setting up websites, and ways to broaden marketing possibilities, in order to expand their reach to the consumer.

The ultimate goal? To secure food future for Sooke. As described by Wasiuta, “The long term view of Sooke Food CHI is to support local food systems.  We do this by acting as a catalyst to develop projects and programs with a viewpoint that the individual program may eventually take on its own life.”