A review of the Fourth Vancouver Island Winter Mixer, written by Young Agrarians Vancouver Island Coordinator Moss Dance
On the morning of Saturday, January 28, I was sitting in a circle of over 100 farmers and friends in Quw’utsun Territory on beautiful Shawnigan Lake at the 4th Vancouver Island Winter Mixer. In the centre of that circle, three inspiring Quw’utsun land and food activists were singing us a welcome.
Ron & Deb George and their nephew Joe Akerman taught us to sing a Quw’utsun song, and soon enough, we were all standing up singing together. This powerful moment grounded my experience of this year’s Mixer, where farmers, food providers, and friends gathered on unceded Coast Salish Territories to learn to be better food growers, business operators, and community members.
Welcoming & Gratitude
Quw’utsun Elder Ron George reminded us that morning that the Earth never gives up on us, and that our hearts, with every beat, are with us too. He reminded us of the importance of being good to one another, and to giving thanks to the Earth and each other. Ron, Deb and Joe set the tone for our Mixer. In a spirit of gratitude, curiosity and caring, we continued to explore what it means to be farmers and food providers on unceded Indigenous territories on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands throughout the weekend.
Deb, Ron and Joe also presented about Xwa’xwum (AKA Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island) where they are actively involved in stewardship of the land. There, they are working on important restoration projects, sharing culture, and offering land-based experiences to youth. Through community-lead initiatives like the one at Xwa’xwum, people have an opportunity to connect with Quw’utsun culture and traditions—inspiring a sense of belonging.
Belonging with the Land and Each Other
I’ve been reflecting, since then, on how powerful belonging is. Belonging is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to cultural revitalization and survival. It’s also an important part of revitalizing an ecological food system.
As a culture of small-scale ecological farmers and food gatherers, we have the opportunity to dive into conversations around farming on Indigenous lands and foodsheds. I am very excited to see that our coastal ecological farming communities are exploring who we are in relationship to the unceded Indigenous lands where we farm. As a settler of European descent myself, I am continually evaluating: what is my connection to this land? What is my responsibility to this land? And equally as important: what are my connections and responsibilities to the Indigenous communities whose land I am living on?
Mixers give us an annual opportunity to gather with others who share our values around ecological farming and land stewardship. We are able to connect with amazing people like Ron, Deb and Joe, who are deeply involved in food provisioning via restoration projects on their lands. We participate in skills building workshops with experienced farm mentors. We share delicious local and organic food prepared lovingly by talented hands. We nerd out together on farm equipment and animal feed. By Saturday night of the Vancouver Island Mixer, there were a lot of shiny, happy food loving faces.
How does it impact small-scale farmers and food providers when we gather, meet face-to-face and engage with the communities around us?
Young and new farmers, and folks working on projects to restore foodsheds and heal the land are often isolated from one another because of physical distances in rural areas. Food cultivation and harvesting is hard work. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally challenging to start up a new farm business, or tackle a much-needed foodshed revitalization project in our communities.
Coming together like this in the off-season brings a sense of camaraderie, and provides a space for people to develop lifelong connections—new farmers meet mentors and find resources. Farmers who are in start-up might find field hands or apprentices for the season. Co-ops plans are discussed. Business partners are found.
One farmer this year who attended found land to grow on for the 2017 season! The connections made at Mixers can’t be made as easily online—that’s why it’s so important that we meet offline and in person every year, to build this movement of small-scale ecological food growers.
Vancouver Island Winter Mixer as ‘Farmer to Farmer Extension Services’
I want to say a huge thank you to our skilled facilitators who delivered well-crafted workshops at our Vancouver Island Winter Mixer. Participants got to check out amazing sessions on: business planning, conflict resolution & communication skills, ALR regulations and land access, farm co-operatives and collectives, online soil mapping, keyline water management, marketing, crop planning, holistic management, small engine repair and more.
The workshops received excellent reviews! We are so fortunate to have these incredible mentors and facilitators in our community to provide this targeted information to new and young farmers in our community.
People walked away from the weekend with new crop planning spreadsheets to try, business planning tools, marketing ideas, online soil-mapping prowess, small engine repair skills and more!
Did you attend the Mixer and want to share a skill or tool that you walked away with that’s making a difference to your 2017 season? Drop us a line at: email@example.com!
We had such a great farmer slideshow session Saturday night! It was excellent to hear slide shows inspired stories on challenges, innovations, #farmfails, and successes.
Can’t Wait to Mix It Up Again Next Year
One last thing I have to share, as the organizer, I was the main MC for the Vancouver Island Winter Mixer. I had to laugh at one point because I couldn’t get people to stop talking and listen to announcements, even when I was trying to announce food being ready! I see this as a sign of success— there’s something amazingly good about getting farmers and food providers together to learn, grow and celebrate.
We can’t wait to mix it up with you again next year! All you farmers, food providers, land stewards, educators, mentors, innovators, radical thinkers, friendly faces and delightful volunteers—you make life richer!
Vancouver Island Young Agrarians Coordinator