What a fantastic weekend! The 4th Okanagan Winter Mixer brought together 100 people from across the Okanagan-Thompson region and beyond – as far as Williams Lake! We enjoyed two days of networking activities and workshops on a range of topics focused on building farming and business skills. There was a great energy in the room – a lot of passion and excitement about the coming season!
A highlight for many people were the business skills workshops lead by Chris Bodnar from Close to Home Organics. Attendees expressed their gratitude for learning about what it takes to build and run their farm (or future farm) as a good business. They reflected that often growing food is not the greatest challenge, but that marketing and managing supply to meet demand is. Chris also threw in a number of funny and interesting anecdotes to make this traditionally dry topic way more fun!
The Winter Mixer workshops on integrating livestock into small farms and homesteads lead by Tristan and Aubyn Banwell of Spray Creek Ranch, and the introduction to holistic management led by Dana Penrice and Ted Chastko of C&E Meats were favourites with the folks developing farms with animals. It sounds like there is growing interest in this field, and there is a desire for some more hands-on experiences. Attendees to these workshops had tonnes of questions and really enjoyed learning about the ins and outs of how Tristan, Aubyn, Ted, and Dana are managing their animals.
Pauline Terbasket, Executive Director of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, led a wonderful workshop with support from Marc Griebel, on the very important work underway to rebuild salmon stocks in the region. Participants learned about the impact of colonization on the Syilx / Indigenous / First Nations peoples, and asked questions about appropriate ways to work cross culturally. The session was a wonderful opportunity for new and young farmers to think about the lands they occupy, and how to get engaged through relationship building as part of a process of Truth & Reconciliation.
We had one off site workshop on the Do’s and Don’ts of Building DIY Caterpillar Tunnels led by Jordan Mar. Johan Bos of Big Rock Ranch shared, “What I got most out of it was that building an affordable hoop house is possible for everyone with some help of the Johnny’s Seeds manual and youtube videos. You don’t have to be an engineer to build a low tunnel yourself!”
Joy Road Catering provided an amazing spread for lunch on both days of the event! So many amazing local farms, producers, and grocery stores contributed generously to keep us well fed throughout the weekend. Thank you to: Armstrong Apiaries, Askew’s, Bella Stella Cheese, Claremont Ranch Organics, Crannog Ales, Enderberry Farm, Fieldstone Organics, Fresh Valley Farms, Gathering Place Tea, Grass Roots Dairy, Left Fields Farm, Nature’s Fare, Prairie Creek Edibles, Rancho Vignola, Shuswap Coffee, Sproule & Sons Farm, Urban Harvest, Westbank Harvest, and Willow Creek Organics have generously donated food or beverages.
These are highlights from just a few of the sessions at the 4th Okanagan Winter Mixer, but we received great feedback about all of them. A huge thank you to all our presenters, attendees, volunteers, sponsors, and funders for making such an awesome weekend come together! Everyone who came gained useful information, skills, and made new connections. We’re looking forward to seeing you next year!
The 4th Okanagan Winter Mixer was made possible by the Central Okanagan Foundation and with funding support from Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Thank you to all our funders and sponsors.