It seems almost unfathomable that a year has already gone by since the B.C. Land Matching Program came to the Columbia Basin / Kootenays with generous support from the Province of British Columbia and Columbia Basin Trust. I often catch myself telling people I meet through this role that we’re a few months in, then I have to correct myself; it has been a year already. So much has happened in a span of twelve months. My gratitude and enthusiasm for this wild ride is something I want to share with you!
FROM SHOPIFY TO SHEEPIFY: How I came to be a land matcher
Many people I’ve met this year have asked me how I came to be a land matcher. They had never heard of this job before. As a first-of-its-kind pilot program in the region, hearing this was no surprise. Before taking on this role with Young Agrarians, I was working in project administration and international affairs for a few years, and then remotely for an e-commerce company doing technical and business support.
I loved thinking about the meta in the international sphere, though it was often difficult to identify the impacts of initiatives on the ground. I often wondered how effective our projects really were at the local level and within the communities they purported to support. I was learning a lot through conversations with thousands of unique business people, but I wasn’t able to nurture any sustained relationships with them or know how their businesses and visions would evolve over time.
I had obtained a Master of Science degree in public policy I wasn’t putting to any practical use. I had an unfulfilled desire to work towards a more just world, where local and rural economies thrive while climate change is addressed and the environment isn’t so thoughtlessly exploited. I grew up in the agricultural stronghold of Oyama in the Okanagan Valley, but had spent the better part of a decade and a half moving around and was yearning for a sense of place in a similarly rural environment.
A year and a half ago I made the spontaneous decision to move from the Village of Montreal to Ymir in the dead of winter, during the snowiest weeks of the snowiest year, based off of a Facebook post for a Room for Rent on 12 acres beside the Salmo River. I never regretted the move for a second, even while digging our house out of ten feet of snow. Six months after moving to the Kootenays, the opportunity with Young Agrarians came up and I’ve never looked back.
IN PHOTOS: A year of land matching and community building
My role and associated responsibilities in developing and implementing the B.C. Land Matching Program and some events in the Columbia Basin region has been eye-opening and life-changing (to say the very least!). Dozens of people have graced me with some of their life stories and some have even given me the space to share part of my own with them.
I have cried with landowners and farmers about the state of the world, family dynamics and their communities affected by natural disasters like wildfires and floods. I’ve also celebrated peoples’ wins and been able to pick the brains of so many inspiring humans: farmers, food processors, educators, administrators, policy makers, politicians, planners and landowners with a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences.
People have fed me food they’ve spent hours preparing from the land they farm. I have sat in the sunshine and discussed politics and permaculture down dirt roads with strangers who quickly became friends. I have explored corners of this province that have left me speechless. Each place with its own magic that captivates me and leaves me wanting to explore further and deeper.
All of this to say that I am continuously humbled, inspired and intrigued by each and every place I visit, encounter and story and for that I will be eternally indebted to this experience. To have the opportunity to see real life connections forged in my presence, whether at YA events or through land matching, to be endowed with the gift to help people build new relationships with their community and the land; what this means to me personally is hard to put into words.
From the initial email or phone calls, to the introduction meeting and negotiation phase, the process of land matching has been varied and enlightening. I’ve been able to support some folks remotely, while others I’ve sat with for hours to hash-out details of a land agreement. Every match and every agreement has been so unique: market gardens, livestock, haying, orchards, wineries, perennial nurseries, hemp, herbs. You name it, someone in the region is probably trying to grow or raise it.
The excitement of witnessing farmers start and grow their businesses is palpable. Helping landowners turn the ideas for their property into a land opportunity is a creative and collaborative process I really enjoy. Many of these people I’ve been able to meet through our YA event series around the region (so come on out and chat!).
When I saw the chemistry between the first farmer and landowners I introduced, who now have a signed lease and a beautiful friendship (with one another and me!), it made me believe more than ever in this work and the power of community. This year has renewed my faith in humanity and that doing good is possible, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you to the farms and farmers who have hosted events across the Basin, from Glade to Salmo, Creston to Meadowbrook, Krestova, Windermere and more. We are so lucky to have a network of such kick-ass farmers here. People I have met here are hard-working, genuine, down-to-earth and innovative and, perhaps most importantly, resilient in the face of challenging growing conditions, a housing shortage, rising real estate values, geographic isolation and a rapidly changing local economic environment.
Through this role I’ve connected with people in real-life I had only been in touch with at a distance. I presented at the BCAFM Conference last winter on land access and matching, I attended the Food and Buyers Expo last year in Nelson and have tabled resources at multiple events across the Central Kootenay. I am the Secretary for the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council and through that organization have had the chance to be the youngest fly on the wall in a room with decades of experience.
When I say I’m humbled and this has been a wild ride – these experiences only represent few of so many and, hopefully, many more to come. A big shout out to the YA team – thanks for your continued support through this new adventure and, once again, thank you to everyone who has supported us and joined us at an event!
Get in touch!
I look forward to meeting you all at an event in the future. Get in touch to chat about YA resources, programs, events, or land matching! email@example.com
JOIN US FOR ANOTHER COLUMBIA BASIN EVENT!
Events in the Columbia Basin are funded by Columbia Basin Trust.
GOT LAND? WANT LAND?
Through the B.C. Land Matching Program, Young Agrarians is offering support to farmers looking for land for their farm business and landowners looking for farmers to farm their land. The Columbia Basin Land Matcher will be attending the YA Mixer in October to answer any questions about accessing land through this program. For those unable to join us, you can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The B.C. Land Matching Program is funded in the Columbia Basin by the Province of British Columbia, with support from Columbia Basin Trust and the Real Estate Foundation of B.C.