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General News · 19th March 2009
Alanah Caron
The Seeds of Sustainability

Preprinted from the Howling Wolf

Among the central challenges in the island’s near future, perhaps the question of food security is most compelling. Collectively, we are importing from off the island up to $8000 worth of produce a week to supply just one of the four main retail outlets here, and that doesn’t include all the “foreign” foods that come with us by ferry. Currently, we are dependent on resources from afar to maintain our basic needs for fresh food.

Given the uncertainty in the continental economy today, that may not be wise. There are many points in which our lengthy supply line can be broken, and the further away from our little paradise we get, no doubt the less relevant our concerns are to those who may have to choose where limited resources go.

Still, we are not helpless, perhaps we are only a little too unprepared for times of, shall we say, large system interruption which may lie ahead. Individually, many people have organized themselves to deal with their own personal food security. So what about those of us who don’t have all the components in place – those without the land for a garden, or those without the stamina or know-how to grow food themselves?

When you read this March 28 may have already past, or it may be still in the future. On that Saturday starting at 2:00 pm, there will be a meeting at Manson’s Hall exploring possible solutions to the issue of food security here. For those of you who don’t get to that meeting, this is an interpretation of what will be presented.

There are plans to form an organic food-security co-op on Cortes Island. While the goal is to design a detailed and integrated multi-intention, multi-function and multi-result scenario, a simplified explanation is as follows. We intend to build a series of large inexpensive year-round greenhouses over the next few years and supply an increasing portion of the island’s requirements for fresh food.

This is not solely a business venture, nor mainly another act of goodwill on behalf of the community, for which this place has such a rich tradition, but elements of both combined with a housing plan for workers. The proposed model for the Co-op is a complex business/cultural approach that includes a multi-generational co-operation system, a fluid ownership structure that allows people (and their equity) to enter and exit the group smoothly, and a finite new decision-making process that can produce (even quickly when needed) the precise clear agreements which in general such group endeavours urgently require. Without question it is an ambitious project.

What is more ambitious than planning to grow enough food for a meaningful portion of the island, is attempting to do that as a group of thirty to fifty islanders from all walks of life without a “traditional” leadership structure vested in individual people. Indeed, we are developing and refining a “hierarchy of principles” to lay the focus for what we intend to be our reasonable behaviour both collectively and as individuals. While we hope to bring joy and abundance through our interconnection to both the greater community and ourselves, no doubt we may have many “growing pains” before us too.

On this island, there is a long history of determined, frugal and co-operative people succeeding with an agrarian outlook. So, coupling the ongoing perseverance of this community with BC’s commitment to maintaining places where farming is held sacred, we hope to have many people working soon. Wonderfully, the Agricultural Land Commission allows that a working farm on ALR land is permitted, within parameters, to house workers permanently beyond the limits of standard regional regulations. Still, more relevant to us than passing any governmental standards, we are aware that this community will want to be involved in dialogue about the details involved in this project for years to come. It’s not a new idea – “Know your farmer, know your food”.

We are excited by the early response from people. Already a conversation has begun about the possibility of creating a new Agricultural Land Stewardship zone that would mimic the ground rules for ALR land, but allow the island more choice as to where such farming operations are located. From the possibility of significant assistance from a helpful community group, to land owners offering their property for consideration, already opportunities are popping up. While there is still no finalized structure to which one currently can commit, and it may be next spring before things progress to the greenhouse building stage, a serious level of co-creative interest now referred to as “Stage One Synergy” has been agreed upon by an expanding circle of locals.

We are committed to having many members each with a small investment and to limiting any individual from amassing a controlling interest. With a commitment to trade ongoing labour for equity over time, responsible willing people will be allowed to join without other investment. This is possible due to the combined weight we hope to accrue from investments of needed material, relevant equipment and cash from more established members, thereby creating (after a start-up period) a group stability which should empower those involved to have a degree of both consistency and fluidity - of choice in life. Generally for many of us, that is essentially the real wealth.

We invite your interest whether it arises from cynicism or burning passion. Then too, if you are compelled by organic agriculture, co-operative culture or just would like to support (and reap the rewards of) the local growing of healthy food, please consider learning more about membership. There are a variety of ways to be involved and our individual diversity only adds to our communal strength.

Regardless of whether a “big project” is for you or not, consider creating self-sufficiency for your basic needs of food, housing and energy. In short, we encourage you to get your hands dirty and grow some food. For more information, please call 250-935-0258 or email us at