By Sage Birley
I grew up under the impression that people in the south didn’t care about the struggles faced by people in the North East of the province. But my perspective was shifted while visiting Vancouver, when I found out Kristin Henry was willing to go on a hunger strike to stop the Site C Dam. I have been so inspired by the work that the incredible women who have set up a camp in the front lawn of BC Hydro have done. So, while visiting Vancouver to see friends and family, I will be taking time to lend my support to these amazing women and participate in a 3-day solidarity hunger strike.
It is hour 41 of my hunger strike: my head is cloudy, my stomach is grumbling – but I am so inspired to stand behind Kirstin Henry as she puts her health on the line on Day 5 of her hunger strike.
If someone I had previously never met is willing to go without food to protect the food security of the Peace Region, then it is time for me to do my part. It’s time to stand in solidarity to halt the Site C Dam so we can feed our communities – so we can all have food on our plates.
Farming in the Peace
As a third generation farmer, I’ve grown up with a strong connection to my food and an awareness of the importance of food security. Although my family farm is outside of the proposed Site C floodplain, I have always been aware of the importance the Peace River Valley has played in this region – historically, now, and hopefully in the future.
As an organic market gardener, I am well aware of the challenges of vegetable production this far north – each year, I struggle to produce a crop within my limited frost-free days. Despite the fact that I operate one of the only market gardeners in the North Peace Region, I am determined to do all that I can to feed my community.
Recently I have been inspired by a number of young farmers recently establishing their own market gardens down in the river valley and I’ve been absolutely amazed by what they are able to produce in the rich alluvial soils. The microclimate of the east-west valley results in warmer growing conditions than other areas in the Northeast. When combined with access to river water it allows producers in the valley to grow a huge range of vegetable crops, including corn, watermelon and cantaloupe. Struggling to market garden on my own farm has made me blatantly aware of just how valuable the Peace River is and how central it is in ensuring food security in the north.
Future of Farming Flooded?
The 9 billion dollar Site C Dam project will flood the future of farming to produce power BC Hydro has failed to prove British Columbians need. Meanwhile food systems in California continue to be negatively impacted by severe drought as food prices continue to skyrocket. I understand the importance of creating jobs in these unstable economic times, and that’s why I think it is paramount that we halt the Site C Dam. Instead of throwing away our future for a few short-term jobs, let’s create long-term sustainable jobs by investing in small-scale renewable energy projects and food security.
In southern BC, young farmers eager to fill the gap of retiring farmers are struggling to find access to land. Meanwhile, BC Hydro and the Province are preparing to throw away over thirty one thousand acres of top quality farmland in the Peace Region.
Please Stand with us! Reach out to your local MPs and MLAs. Demand that Justin Trudeau and Christy Clark halt the Site C Dam, respect the Treaty 8 Nation court cases, cease to hand out further permits, and send the Site C Dam for a full review by the BC Utilities Commission.