Well, actually that’s not entirely correct. The founders of L2T first met in 2015 and held the first forum in 2018. But L2T has had a paid Coordinator (me — Liz) for three years. That’s no small thing for a new network.
When I started in April 2018 I was very new to the concept of a network (as an organizational structure) and pretty new to food systems work. The Vermont Farm to Plate model was the shining example of what was possible, and relationships (built on trust) put at the centre of everything we do.
We have come a long way since April 2018. Today I am proud to share what that looks like in 2021–2022. Part natural evolution, part funding necessity, 2021 will focus largely on projects. This work will be guided by a soon-to-be-released strategic direction document that outlines what we do and how we do it—ultimately, aspiring to build a healthy, thriving and resilient regional food system.
Our refined vision: Together, we are building a thriving, healthy and resilient regional food system that nourishes people, sustains livelihoods, regenerates the environment and celebrates the culture of this place.
You may recall but it is worth repeating, that L2T is a growing network of people and organizations from across the North Okanagan who support the L2T vision. In collaboration with our network partners, we build the network and carry out projects that strengthen and support the local food system. This year we have 5 projects on the go:
Know Your Farmer, Explore the BX – Tour Series
L2T is partnering with local farmers to coordinate a BX-based farm gate tour series. The BX “Know Your Farmer, Explore the BX” Tour is envisioned as a self-guided, self-paced circuit tour of the BX area with stops at a number of farms and artisan locations/shops, designed to provide easy access to this largely undiscovered area of the Okanagan corridor.
A series of three tours is being planned for June 27, August 29 and October 9, 2021 (with a COVID safety plan in place). The events will include a bike tour loop to promote healthy community activities, alongside promoting local food and businesses. The goal is that you end the tour with enough ingredients for a meal and having explored somewhere new to you.
Seniors Local Food Box
Land to Table and the Good Food Box are collaborating to deliver an 8-month pilot project (June to January) with funding from SPARC BC, to deliver a monthly local food box for up to 50 vulnerable seniors across the region. These food boxes will include produce (the same as the monthly Good Food Box offer) as well as bread and eggs and other local goods like honey or jam, and berries. L2T will be looking to connect with local producers to supply our boxes, so please reach out if you are interested.
Village of Lumby – Food System Engagement
This year we will be working directly with the Village of Lumby on a community engagement project. This includes connecting with the Lumby food system community, creating a local directory, and supporting the creation of a community-based vision for Lumby-owned ALR land.
We began conversations with the Village in July 2020, to discuss how L2T might support community goals for local food security that were developed by the Lumby Age Friendly Committee. In November, Lumby Council agreed to fund a project, for us to lead them through a community engagement process.
This is an exciting pilot, and demonstrates one way that L2T can support local government to build relationships with local food system communities and create action from food security goals.
UBCO – Local Food Procurement Pilot Project
Some of the most exciting, action-oriented work we are doing this year includes a partnership project with UBCO.
This local food procurement pilot project will connect local producers and processors to UBCO Food Services, build relationships across a value chain (farm to institution) and trial an innovative model for local food procurement.
UBCO is well positioned to become the bioregion’s local food procurement champion: It has taken direct control over food services management and has developed strong food values and procurement policy. In January 2018, at the first Land to Table (L2T) Network forum (Growing the Local Food Economy), participants identified aggregation as an opportunity for small scale farmers to access new markets. Ongoing and recent engagement has confirmed farmer support for pursuing aggregation as part of a strategy for seeking new markets. Both farmers and small retailers agree that a local institutional champion would incentivize and support the much-needed coordination of aggregation at this level (and ideally a move to an online ordering hub).
Catalyzed by these initial conversations, and with findings from a summer 2020 project to determine UBCO food procurement quantities, we created a collaboration and have secured joint funding from Feed BC and a UBC CUES grant for a pilot. Project partners include: the UBC Culinary Director, UBCO Food Services and Executive Chef, the Institute for Community Engaged Research at UBCO, Land to Table and network farmers, and a local agri-economist/consultant (with others from UBCO Campus Health, and Young Agrarians on the Advisory Committee). The project will run over the 2021-2022 academic year, with the hopes that students will be back on campus then!
In addition, and running parallel to this UBCO pilot, we have also received a Vancouver Foundation grant to explore value chain partner needs and systemic barriers that contribute to complexities of procurement from small farms to institutions. In essence, this is a research grant that will contribute to the hands on learning of the pilot project, and inform how UBCO decides to scale up local food procurement in the years to come.
As you can see there is a lot on the go! With these projects we are working to build local supply chains and create economic development opportunities for agri-businesses, as key to growing our local food economy and building a more resilient local food system.
We look forward to updating you as the projects progress and have plans to continue to engage the network through online gatherings (online for now), regular newsletter and blog posts, and if all goes well another forum in 2022! All good stuff to share on this day—Earth Day!
Stay tuned. Stay Safe. Be well.