The Annual General Meeting of the Sooke Region Food CHI Society was a mixture of past accomplishments and future plans.
In speaking about the society, Phoebe Dunbar said it all began at a 2007 meeting where a group of people met to talk about their hopes and dreams.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm,” said Dunbar, “and four years later we still have that and it is because of everybody that is involved in the food movement.”
Several politicians were asked to speak to the assembled who gathered at the Sooke Harbour House for the AGM.
MLA John Horgan said he was very impressed by the work being done by the society.
“It is a privilege to see, after six years, all of you doing spectacular work… you can grow your own food, be self-sustaining and you show how it can be done, “ said Horgan.
He also mentioned Frederique and Sinclair Philip who he said laid the groundwork for the society.
Gerard LeBlanc, planner for the District of Sooke, brought forth a message from Mayor Wendal Milne. LeBlanc said the district is committed to agricultural and is developing an agricultural committee to protect food security. The committee would also look at the region’s agricultural opportunities and work with the regional district.
Juan de Fuca Regional Director Mike Hicks was introduced by Phoebe Dunbar who said Hicks had made the statement that, “Food CHI is about a lot more than growing turnips.”
Hicks said he has some background in farming up in Sointula. He mentioned that he had been instrumental in giving an agricultural water rate to the allotment garden at Sunriver and since then it has spread throughout the Capital Regional District. He mentioned the sea-based food industry and the restriction on fishing.
“We are entitled to this food source,” he said. “We go ‘foraging’ for salmon.” He mentioned the battle with Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans over the potential dismantling of the Bill James dam on DeMamiel Creek.
“The federal government is making a big mistake,” he said.
MLA for Saanich South and agriculture critic Lana Popham was also a guest and spoke of how impressed she was with the work of the Sooke Food CHI Society.
“It’s incredible what you are doing,” said Popham. “I look up to Mary Alice (Johnson) and thanks for being a mentor in my life.”
She cited the importance of small farms and the groups such as food CHI who are springing up all over the province.
Popham mentioned the importance of seeds and that she had put forward a private member’s bill to get the province to start a provincial seed bank. She is also wanting to have the province keep track of genetically-modified seeds, stating it was “our right to know.”
Chief Gordon Planes of the T’Sou-ke First Nation announced the $1-million grant the band had obtained from the province to create market garden greenhouses.
“Everything is connected,” said Planes. “This is a good start on building a healthy life style… What is important in the treaty process is a healthy community and healthy land.”
He said he would like to see Vancouver Island be self-sufficient and this project was just one way of starting that.
“This can really affect us all. Any work we do today is for our children to carry forward. I’m very passionate about this.”
Phoebe Dunbar made the following statement in regard to the commercial greenhouse project.
“We do worry that there will never be enough affordable local foods grown. Will the new farmer ever be able to afford to buy or lease the land? And then along comes the commercial T’Sou-ke greenhouse project on a big scale. If they can make local foods available 12 months of the year for their band and the community… and give employment to their people, some of whom are already becoming sufficient at growing, what an accomplishment. Food CHI is very proud to support T’Sou-ke Nation’s food growing initiatives and development of native gardens.”
Highlights of the society’s year includes: The Farm Mentorship Program, Seedy Saturday, Circle of Sharing, a film night with awareness video, Farm and Food Garden Tour, Sooke Region Fruit Tree Project, Farmer2Farmer, and the Sunriver Community Gardens.
The 2012 Food CHI Society directors are:
Mary Alice Johnson
The Sooke Region Food CHI Society is a registered society and voluntary non-profit organization, with approx. 200 members from the Sooke region stretching from Port Renfrew to Jordan River, Shirley, Otter Point, Sooke and East Sooke.