Recap From the 2018 Small Scale Farmers’ Symposium

By Olga Lansdorp

Olga is the program manager for SPEC’s Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers program. 

It was a cold, windy morning in late January, but that didn’t stop the farmers, presenters, volunteers, and other interested parties from coming to the Scandinavian Community Centre in Burnaby, BC. It promised to be a day filled with talks, discussions, and activities around the topics of soil, drainage, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and farmer resilience, with plenty of time for networking and chatting in between. The day came to a running start with an activity by Emma Holmes, the Organics Specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture. She asked attendees about their challenges and what types of extension services they would like to see, which started an atmosphere of discussion and participation that lasted through the rest of the day.Next up was a highly popular workshop focused on farmer resilience. Kimi and Kareno of Sweet Digz Farm in Richmond led the session, which focused on work-life balance, taking care of yourself, and tools to make it through life as a farmer. Many participants commented that tidbits learned from this workshop were the most important things they learned at the Symposium.

This was followed by presentations about soil, compost, drainage, and IPM, all of which the audience listened to attentively, and participated in activities and discussions. Included in that was the passionate talk and discussion about soil health by DeLisa Lewis, the keynote speaker for the event.

Lunch was provided by Potluck Café and Catering, a social venture based out of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver which gives meaningful employment to marginalized people. Coffee was donated by Trees Organics Coffee and pastries were donated by PureBread. Conference attendees ate well, and used breaks and meal times to connect with one another in discussions and conversations that flowed freely, and lamentably had to be broken up to allow for the next activity.

Some of the takeaways from the event were that many farmers are seeking an online platform on which to ask questions, as well as wanting more on-farm visits/extension. Many also expressed in the surveys that they would like to have more events where farmers come together like this one, or of a more casual nature.
Overall SPEC considered the event a big success, and hopes that we can host more similar events in the future!

A big thank you to our supporters who made this event possible: Growing Forward 2, Government of British Columbia, Young Agrarians, Vancouver Urban Farming Society, UBC Farm – Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, E.S. Cropconsult, Vancouver Farmers Markets, Whole Foods Market, Vancity, KPU Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, University of the Fraser Valley Agriculture Centre of Excellence, UBC Botanical Garden, and BC Farmers Markets.