Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon

Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon

Agriculture show brings hope for Valley’s future

Local food producers, government and First Nations representatives and organizers were brought together for a welcome ceremony on Friday.

Optimism for the future of agriculture in the Alberni Valley and working together on food sustainability were common threads for speakers at a welcome ceremony for the Islands Agriculture Show (IAS).

The IAS is the only agricultural trade show and conference serving the farm and food community on Vancouver Island, Coast and Gulf Islands. The show brings together farmers, rural landowners, farm organizations equipment dealers, service providers and the general public.

Local food, beer and wine producers, government and First Nations representatives and organizers were brought together for a welcome ceremony on Friday evening at Glenwood Centre, after the first day of the IAS wrapped up.

In attendance was Lieutenant Governor of B.C. Judith Guichon, who gave a speech highlighting the importance of holding agricultural events to educate youth on the sector.

“I talk to [school children] about my vision of healthy people in healthy communities on healthy land and that’s what you folks are about,” she said to the crowd. “[The IAS] is a wonderful way for young people, for people that aren’t connected to the land, as well as school children to let them see what’s still going on and how vibrant the agriculture community is.”

Guichon said she sees the agriculture industry getting more vibrant and noted a growing appetite amongst British Columbians to eat and buy agricultural products closer to home.

Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan spoke on the importance of hosting an agricultural show which can provide opportunities to engage, connect and teach attendees about the Valley’s diverse agricultural sectors.

“The city of Port Alberni strongly values agriculture and this is reflected in our policies, our bylaws and in the initiatives that we have undertaken,” Ruttan said. “Much of this recent work has been propelled by our Food Security and Climate Disruption Committee—an advisory body established in part to identify local strategies in response to rising costs and scarcity of food.”

Ruttan said that although the Valley is in an enviable position with respect to climate, soil quality, water resources and land prices, the agriculture industry still faces challenges.

He acknowledged the disconnect between producers and consumers, the consolidation of retailers and the degrading of farm land.

“It’s now up to us to take advantage of our agricultural assets to increase our local food production and food independence. In the Alberni Valley we have a rich farming history and I’m very confident that we have a rich farming future ahead of us,” Ruttan said.

“By working together and sharing our knowledge and resources we can also ensure a profitable and sustainable agriculture industry here in the Alberni Valley and across Vancouver Island.”

John Jack, chairperson of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board of directors, echoed Ruttan’s sentiment about the importance of working collaboratively towards living sustainability.

“Reconciliation is very important to me and I realize now that seeing First Nations people together with our agricultural workers brings me a lot of hope because it’s a lot of commonality there,” Jack said “Nothing makes me more proud to be a part of this community than to see everyone working together and working towards living sustainably and providing a great measure of food security and safety for people on the island.”