The first gathering of farmers institutes in four years is set to take place November 30.
The online gathering has been organized in response to requests at a workshop the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District systems change project hosted in Abbotsford in January.
Reinvigorating the province’s network of farmers institutes was one of the ways the project identified for strengthening regional food systems within BC.
An annual gathering of farmers institutes was initiated by former agriculture minister Lana Popham, who hosted two well-attended events in Richmond in 2018 and 2019.
Those ended with the pandemic, and the lack of a dedicated staff person overseeing the secretariat set up to coordinate linkages between the province’s farmers institutes has stymied desires to deepen ties in the new environment.
The legislation governing farmers institutes grants them direct access to the province’s agriculture minister but the institutes themselves operate independent of the ministry. This creates a grey area with respect to oversight, with responsibility on the provincial side typically falling to limited extension staff, while the institutes themselves not necessarily having the means to combine resources to fund their own oversight.
The upcoming meeting will run for two hours rather than a full day like the in-person events in 2018 and 2019. It is organized by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and facilitated by ACRD system change project coordinator Heather Shobe.
“[It] will offer a chance for all BC Farmers Institutes to share a bit about themselves and to learn from others,” an event summary states.
Discussion points include how farmers institutes see themselves; current priorities and factors limiting their activities; opportunities for province-wide collaboration; and how their governing legislation could be amended to address current realities.
Participants can register for the event at http://tiny.cc/jl9dvz.