Summer intern Hannah Morten tends to crops at the Incubator Seed Farm. (Photo courtesy of Cowichan Green Community)

Cowichan Green Community is a growing concern

For more than 10 years, Cowichan Green Community has been tirelessly tackling food security issues

By Heather Kaye

For more than 10 years, Cowichan Green Community has been tirelessly tackling food security issues in the Cowichan Valley. A large part of this effort is working directly with our local farmers and food processors to ensure on-farm viability, keep farmland in production, and encourage sustainable economic development. This includes the development of local food marketing opportunities as well as workshops and programs that directly address farm issues such as succession planning, water management, and training for new and emerging farmers.

Here is a snapshot of our current ag-focused programs:

The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program (FMNCP):

The BC Farmers’ Market Association collaborates with community organizations and member markets to provide farmers’ market coupons to lower-income families and seniors.

CGC is the regional partner for the Cowichan program, in collaboration with the Duncan Farmers’ Market. CGC distributes up to 60 $15 vouchers each week to lower-income families and seniors participating as well as delivers food literacy cooking programs to support cooking knowledge of locally available foods. The coupons can be spent at all BC farmers markets that participate in the FMNCP to purchase fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs, nuts, fish and meat. Here in Cowichan, the coupons translate into an infusion of nearly $20,000 for our local farmers each season.

Cowichan-Grown Farm Map:

This annual guide published by CGC, now in its 8th edition, is an accessible marketing tool for farmers and helps them to connect to consumers wishing to buy direct from local farms.

Incubator Seed Farm:

Based on the successful incubator farm model that has been implemented in numerous places to train new farmers, the Cowichan Incubator Seed Farm is the first to focus specifically on training new seed farmers. Locally-grown, regionally adapted seeds are the cornerstone of a food secure community. Without seeds, there are no crops. With two years of seed production under its belt, the CISF continues to build a community seed bank, seed library, and regional centre for seed education and training.

KinPark Youth Urban Farm:

The KinPark Youth Urban Farm is a youth-led urban agriculture demonstration site and working farm, based on the principles of permaculture and organic agriculture.

The urban farm aims to train young people how to grow food and create value-added products, and provide increased access to urban space for growing food. This season, we are providing hands-on agricultural training to the Vancouver Island University Workplace Essential Skills Training program participants and to Cowichan Secondary’s Community and Land-Based Learning Classrooms.

Cow-op Online Farmers’ Market and Co-operative:

Since August of 2015, online shoppers in the Cowichan region have been able to buy local produce from the convenience of their own home via www.Cow-op.ca, the region’s first online farmers’ marketplace of locally grown and processed food.

This summer Cow-op.ca opened its virtual doors to Victoria consumers who wish to enjoy a taste of the Warmland while directly supporting local family farms and businesses.

The online model is convenient for food producers and customers alike, as the farmers save time by harvesting exactly what has been ordered, they have access to the Victoria market without having to travel or staff a stall, and buyers are able to shop from their computer or mobile device year-round. Cow-op.ca is an initiative of the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace developed in partnership with CGC in Duncan. Incorporated in November of 2014, the CVCM is a not-for-profit co-operative with over 50 food processor and farmer members.

Island Farm and Garden Magazine:

CGC acquired Island Farm & Garden magazine in fall of 2016 and has been publishing this glossy full of farming and gardening articles, tips, recipes, and more ever since.

The publication features contributors from across Vancouver Island providing an Island-wide voice for agriculture.

Heather Kaye is a coordinator, general manager and supervisor with Cowichan Green Community.

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