On a beautiful late summer day, we gathered with 52 community members at Amara Farm on unceded K’ómoks territory, also known as Courtenay, B.C. at a farm tour hosted through the B.C. Land Matching Program delivered by Young Agrarians. We enjoyed farm tours, talked about land access and farming collaboratively, shared food at a beautiful community potluck, and were honoured to participate in a surprise seed ceremony and offering for head Amara farmer Arzeena, led by Natasha of Minwaadizi Farm and her Auntie Sharon. Folks traveled from as far as Ladysmith and Port Alberni to join! Read on for more details and photos from the day.
We kicked off the event with a series of farm tours led by Arzeena (owner/farmer at Amara Farm) and Taylor (intern at Amara Farm). Amara Farm grows a large variety of certified organic produce, nursery stock, and seeds. They have about two acres currently in vegetable production. Arzeena and her partner Neil started Amara Farm in 2012 with a dream to grow healthy food for their community and support other new farmers. They started with vegetables, but with climate change and the aging of both Arzeena and Neil, they started planting more woody perennials to help sequester carbon and also make harvesting a bit easier (they don’t want to do 100 squats a day anymore!).
Arzeena and Neil’s latest woody perennial product is hazelnuts. They acquired the EFB-resistant varieties from Nature Tech Nursery in Merville and are growing them as multi-stem bushes. They were able to get a very early first crop in year four and are now looking to more than double that in year five!
Amara Farm is supported by a farm manager and an awesome crew. The team grows and sells throughout the year, with some down time in the cooler winter months. Amara Farm sells to the Comox Valley Farmers Market, maintains a 60-share CSA, and sells to restaurants and wholesalers. The berry harvests are managed separately from the veggies so that farmers don’t burn out from doing both. Berries are sold through the CSA and markets, and the black currants (they have 500 plants) are also sold to ice creameries and distillers for making value-added products.
Amara Farm and Minwaadizi Farm also started a marketing co-op with two other farmers this year. (We hope to share more about that another day.) There are several large greenhouses on the property, a dugout for collecting rainwater for irrigation, and lots more interesting infrastructure.
After we learned some of Arzeena’s tips and tricks on the farm tours, we gathered in a circle for the seed ceremony led by Natasha and her auntie Sharon. Natasha has Saulteaux heritage and is a member of the Key First Nation. She owns and operates Minwaadizi Farm on leased land on the Amara Farm property. Kiyomi, the Vancouver Island Land Matcher, supported them to develop a lease agreement through the B.C. Land Matching Program.
In keeping with her Indigenous traditions and cultural practices, Natasha wanted to take the opportunity to do something to recognize and honour Arzeena for all that she has done for Natasha and for the farming community. Natasha worked at Amara Farm for several years, and in that time has developed a close relationship to the land and to Arzeena.
In recognition of the importance of intergenerational knowledge transfer, Natasha’s Auntie Sharon traveled from Musqueam Territory (Vancouver) to co-lead the ceremony with Natasha. They both welcomed our group to the circle, and then Auntie Sharon offered a water ceremony supported by Natasha sharing some beautiful traditional songs to honour and thank participants for being present and witnessing the ceremony.
Simon of Good Earth Farms gifted some sugar snap pea seeds for the ceremony. These seeds have a remarkable story: coincidentally, they were gifted to Simon and his partner Heather by Natasha’s Great Auntie (Sharon’s aunt) over 20 years ago. Simon and Heather have been saving and stewarding the seeds ever since. When Natasha moved to the Comox Valley, she met Simon and Heather by chance and learned the story of those seeds, and now has a special connection to her late Great Auntie through seed and community. Seeds are magic!
During the ceremony, Simon went around the circle with the bowl of seeds wrapped in a gorgeous botanically-dyed silk, made by our B.C. Land Matching Program Manager, Darcy. Every participant was offered a seed and asked to infuse it with good energy and wishes for Arzeena. The seeds were then collected and presented to Arzeena. People then had a chance to say a few words about how much Arzeena means to them, and offer gifts.
It was so special to witness this ceremony and the friendship between Natasha and Arzeena. There were more than a few misty eyes in the audience. Thank you to Natasha and Auntie Sharon for leading such a moving ceremony!
Potluck and Socializing
After the beautiful seed-sharing circle, we transitioned to enjoying a potluck meal brimming with produce from local farms and gardens. Folks chatted with each other about their farm seasons, and YA staff shared info about the B.C. Land Matching Program, farm co-operatives, upcoming e-learning courses, and more.
It started to drizzle near the end of the potluck, but fortunately there were lots of covered areas to continue chatting under. It was fantastic to get to know more of the Comox Valley community and beyond!
Big gratitude to our hosts and ceremony leaders. Thank you to everyone who participated in the day. And thanks to those who picked up some Young Agrarians swag on your way out!
The B.C. Land Matching Program is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia under the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, with additional support from Columbia Basin Trust, Bullitt Foundation, Cowichan Valley Regional District, and the Real Estate Foundation of BC.