I’m still dealing with a bit of jet lag from the long flight but I’ve just got to share the awesomeness that happened in Victoria, BC this past weekend.
I went out there for a 3-day National Farmers Union (NFU) Youth Retreat. This was my second NFU Youth Retreat. The first one I attended happened last year at Waldegrave Farm in NS. I came away from that meeting crazy inspired and pumped. There’s nothing better than hanging out with a bunch of other young farmers from across the country who have both similar and different challenges, opportunities, dreams, and goals!
This one in Victoria was just as amazing, with the added benefit of the crazy perfect climate at this time of year. I was shocked to see green grass, pink cherry blossoms, and yellow daffodils when I’d left behind white snow.
Who were the cast of characters from across Canada all living in a sweet beach house on the ocean with me? (And all wearing plaid for this picture.)
From Western Canada to Eastern (roughly):
Alex Fletcher, current President of the NFU Youth and farmer at Wind Whipped Farm and his partner Virginie Lavallee Picard.
Seann Dory, farmer at Sole Food Street Farms in Vancouver.
Sara Dent, coordinator of the Young Agrarians.
Lisa Lundgard, current vice-president of the NFU Youth and farmer at The Veggie Patch in Alberta.
Blake Hall, current NFU Region 7 coordinator and farmer at Prairie Gold Pastured Meats in Red Deer, Alberta.
Mike Kozlowski, farmer at Steel Pony Farm in Red Deer, Alberta.
Ted and Dana, farmers at the Prairie Pasture Project in Alberta.
Graham from Goff Farm in Saskatchewan.
Dean Harder from Lowe Farm in Manitoba.
Dan Kretschmar from Grenville Farm in Muskoka,ON.
Ayla Fenton, a farmer from Roots Down Farm in Kingston, ON.
Jennie Greven, an urban farmer/gardener and member of Toronto Farmers in Toronto, ON.
So, what did we do at this Youth Retreat? Besides eating and drinking the most delicious farm products from BC and across Canada (many of the youth farmers brought some of the food they’ve grown out to share). I have NEVER had fresher, more amazing wild salmon than this!
We discussed the issues that are impacting our farms right now and the ones we anticipate impacting us in the future. We talked about how we can grow our collective farming voice to encompass more of the people who care about the same issues as we do and feel that it’s hard to make an impact on their own. We shared stories of optimism and stories of despair.
I learned about the issues facing prairie grain farmers who can’t sell their product. Even though last season offered record yields, it also will likely bring a record for low profits. I saw pictures of massive piles of grain on the ground next to the silos overflowing with grain they couldn’t sell.
I learned about issues facing migrant workers in Canada and the U.S.
I learned how GM alfalfa is affecting a farm that grows, saves, and sells organic alfalfa seed.
I learned about Bill C-18 and UPOV ’91 and how they will affect ALL farmers and eaters (this is an extremely important issue to be informed about RIGHT NOW! So, read about it, find a petition to sign, or just talk to your MP about it. Never forget that under Canadian law, silence is considered consent. If you don’t speak up, you’re agreeing to this Bill.)!
I shared what I knew about the proactive, nation-wide Bauta Family Initiative for Seed Security. I encouraged the other young farmers to access the educational and funding resources through their regional seed coordinators.
All of us shared pictures and stories of our respective farms and I felt so excited for the future of family-scale farming across this beautiful and diverse country of ours.
On the second day of our retreat, we attended the Young Agrarians Spring Farmer Mixer. It was awesome! There were between 60-80 young farmers present! The day was filled with educational workshops, good food, networking and a good new-fashioned hoe-down!
The NFU Youth spoke on a panel about why we’re members and what the National Farmers Union means for us. Then we broke out for some smaller round table discussions about the issues facing young farmers in BC.
Here I am speaking about why I joined the NFU. You can read basically what it was I said on the Young Agrarians blog here.
I’ve come back home inspired that the work we do here on our small farm is part of something much bigger.
We can be the change we want to see in the world!
If you want to join your voice to the collective voice supporting family farms across Canada, go here.