Catalyzing Collaboration Across Small-Scale, Diversified Agriculture Organizations

By Olga Lansdorp, Tara Moreau, and Robin Hadac

Today, there is a group of individuals representing educational institutions, non-profit organizations, cooperatives, and other groups with a focus on small-scale, diversified agriculture, who are all aware of what the other organizations strive to accomplish over the next five years. They are also aware of the funding opportunities slated to come through from the Ministry of Agriculture in the near future, and thus are primed to collaborate and take advantage of funding opportunities. Six short months ago, things were less organized and less cohesive…

It all started with a conversation at a SPEC-organized Small-Scale Farming Symposium in January 2018 (Figure 1). The event was targeted at farmers themselves, and included presentations and discussions about soil fertility, soil drainage, farmer resilience, pest management, and specific farm questions. At that symposium Tara Moreau (UBC Botanical Garden and SPEC), Emma Holmes (Ministry of Agriculture) and Karen Ageson (Farmers on 57th and Vancouver Urban Farming Society) discussed the idea to have a meeting for people involved in promoting small scale farming. The idea was to support the supporters, or at least bring them all together to discuss a coordinated strategy for supporting small scale, diversified farmers.

“The idea for bringing together all the folks working in small-scale agriculture was brought forward by Tara Moreau, a SPEC board member, at the recent Farmer-to-Farmer SPEC symposium. SPEC, along with other organizations, was very helpful in assisting me in coordinating the event and making it a successful meeting series. The meetings have already led to greater organization and collaboration and will hopefully continue to lead to a connected and thriving network of people and organizations supporting small-scale agriculture in B.C.” -Emma Holmes, Organics Industry Specialist at B.C. Ministry of Agriculture

The idea caught on, and the list of invitees kept growing as organizers reached out to stakeholders involved in small-scale farming. On April 5, 2018, the first Meeting of Leaders in Small-Scale Agriculture was held at the UBC Botanical Garden. At that meeting 20 stakeholders representing BC Association of Farmers Markets, BC Ministry of Agriculture, Certified Organic Associations of B.C., FarmFolk CityFolk, Foodlands Cooperative of B.C., Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Small Scale Food Processors, Small Scale Meat Processors, Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC), University of British Columbia, UBC Botanical Gardens, University of Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Urban Farmers Society attended. Each stakeholder introduced themselves, projects they are currently working on, and shared their five year vision for agriculture in BC. Emma Holmes outlined the Federal government’s upcoming funding programs; we left the meeting ready for more.

This led to the second meeting on May 8, 2018, aimed to take the discussion a step further and seek our opportunities for collaboration. There were 24 people in attendance, representing educational institutions, non-profit organizations, cooperatives, and other interested parties, with a similar attendance to the April meeting with the addition of Smithers Farmers Institute, Fields Forward Society, Lillooet-Pemberton-Whistler-Squamish, Thompson Rivers University, and Young Agrarians. Many ideas were discussed at the meetings, and break-out groups focused on farm schools, research, and agricultural extension. Attendees left the meeting excited by the possibilities for collaboration. At SPEC we consider this initiative, the idea for which was sparked at a SPEC symposium, a great success.

The January 2018 symposium was part of SPEC’s Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers project. This project was made possible thanks to funding from Vancouver Foundation, Whole Foods Market, Vancity, the Gow-Jarrett Millard Family, and the BC Ministry of Agriculture.