Speaker Bio’s for “Building Shared Understanding of Food Access” at the 3rd Annual Forum

Land to Table’s 3rd annual forum, Bridging Gaps: Exploring Local Food Access in the North Okanagan, will feature the following speakers in the “Building Shared Understanding of Food Access” session. Find out more about the event, agenda, and register here.

Fresh Food in Schools: Melissa Jacobs, Teacher & Dawn Guenette, Seed to Plate Coordinator & Volunteer

Dawn Guenette, also known as Gramma D at Kidston Elementary, has made cooking with kids an integral part of her life. Beginning with her career as an Early Childhood Educator she naturally took on the role of providing food for those in her care. It was part of the program from the start to ensure those she cared for were provided with good nutrition. She has brought her passion to elementary school cooking programs such as ‘Cook it Try it Like it’, working with full classes, as well as cooking classes for adults. 

This past summer Dawn participated in the course ‘Food Skills for Families’ giving her formal training in teaching food skills. Informally, she has grown into the role of ‘Seed to Plate’ lead at Kidston, working as she always has at feeding those in her ever widening circle. From seed planting to harvest to food prep she is working in all seasons helping students to make those health promoting connections.

Melissa Jacobs is a 17 year veteran elementary teacher in School District #22 (Vernon). She obtained her BA from the Okanagan University College, her BEd at UCC in Kamloops, BC, and her MEd from UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, BC with a thesis focus on health promotion in schools. Melissa’s educational focus is to promote classrooms that involve place-based and outdoor education-based teaching and learning and has been the healthy schools representative at her school for most of her career. She is trained in programs such as “Sip Smart,” “Friends,” “Action Schools! BC,” “Screen Smart,” “Active for Life,” and more. 

Local Food Access & the Small Farm: Andrea Gunner, Professional Agrologist & Farmer

Andrea Gunner, P.Ag (Professional Agrologist) of AG Consulting, has been involved in a number of projects connecting agricultural producers with consumers in sustainable and economically viable systems for many years.

As an agricultural economist with a horticultural background, she has worked in farm business management at both primary and value-added processing levels including costs of production, market and economic research for individual farm clients, producer co-operatives, farmers markets, first nations, industry associations and government at many levels. Together with her husband, Steve, they run a pastured poultry operation raising roasting chickens and turkeys on a small acreage in the North Okanagan, mentoring satellite farms and directly supplying over 600 households and select restaurants in the Thompson Okanagan.  They also are active co-owners in a provincially licensed poultry processing facility.

Just Food System Solutions: Maurita Prato, Executive Director of LUSH Valley Food Action Society

Maurita Prato, MSc works as the Executive Director of LUSH Valley Food Action Society in the Comox Valley and the past Executive Director of LifeCycles Project Society in Victoria.  These organizations both focus on food security and sovereignty and help communities gain skills and knowledge to grow, access, and prepare healthy, local food.

After running her own Certified Organic farming business for 4 years and managing and working at other Organic farms, Maurita spent another 5 years teaching and coordinated several food systems education programs in school yards, community gardens and classrooms to children and adults.  She has worked as an Instructor for Pacific Rim College for the last 4 years teaching about the politics of industrial food systems and the regional response of building local food economies. Maurita believes that a systems approach to ‘food problems’ which links food access to local production and food skills shows promise in our changing world. In 2019 she co-authored a report entitled: Food Security, Housing, Poverty and the Local Food System; Closing the Loop in the Comox Valley – which through community action research makes a series of recommendations for her community.

Exploring Land Stewardship and Food Sovereignty: Rebecca Kneen, Owner & Farmer at Crannog Ales

Rebecca Kneen brews beer, farms, and manages the paperwork for Crannog Ales and Left Fields Artisans Community Co-op farm. She’s currently a member of the North Okanagan Organics Association Certification Committee and is the provincial representative to the Organic Federation of Canada.

She and her partner work to develop a deep relationship with the land they farm, guided by principles of ecology and good stewardship. This land is in unceded Secwepemc Territory, so it is necessary to shape their work in Indigenous principles, and to find ways to deepen their relationship with the first stewards. In the rest of her life she spins, knits, felts, cooks and raises conscientious hell at every opportunity.

Community Gardens & Traditional Knowledge: Laureen Felix, Splatsin Community Garden

Laureen Felix was born and raised in the Splatsin community and is a holder of traditional food knowledge – she is a traditional spear harpoon fisher woman and collects berries and other traditional foods off the land. She has been the Splatsin Community Garden Coordinator for three years. In this role Laureen is helping to increase the number of gardens grown in the community, working to glean fruit from residential fruit trees, creating relationships with gardeners and farmers in the area, facilitating gardening and food preservation workshops and creating opportunities for community members to collect and learn about traditional foods. Laureen works closely with community elders when and where she can and credits them (15 special elders) for her food sovereignty and other food knowledge.

Laureen believes in the power of relationships, the importance of reciprocity and traditional knowledge and ways of doing things (like bartering), and is working to ensure that good food, grown in the community, is available to all who want it. In addition to her community garden work Laureen is also a part of a traditional Splatsin dance and drumming group – sharing the power of music, song and dance that has been passed down to her.