A new provincial extension service is in the works, an initiative applauded at an Agri-Extension and Research event organized by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and held at the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Abbotsford on January 27.
The regional extension program will be launched this spring.
It will be a progression of the regional model used by the Climate Change Adaptation Program but be more producer-engaged with applied research, according to a presentation delivered by ACRD agricultural support coordinator Heather Shobe, who led the event.
Dovetailing with provincial priorities, the new program will focus on climate mitigation, adaptation and overall sustainability. Since human and financial resources are considerations, it aims to effectively use its own staff while engaging with allied organizations.
The program remains in development, but Shobe said it promises to fit with the vision of a more integrated approach to regional agricultural support.
“A network approach could be an avenue to ensure that producers and regional actors are co-leaders in development of programs that meet their particular regional needs,” she says.
Other opportunities discussed at the event included reinvigorating the province’s network of farmers institutes.
A meeting of institute representatives took place in 2018 and 2019, but ended with the pandemic. Without a dedicated staff person overseeing the secretariat set up to coordinate linkages between the institutes, the initiative has fallen by the wayside despite a desire to forge closer ties.
However, several speakers at the January 27 event expressed a desire for the institutes to support agriculture in the province’s several regions.
Closer collaboration with the academic community is another opportunity. However, breakout groups said a coordinator is needed to direct the work, similar to farmers institutes.
A third breakout group at the event discussed a whole food system approach that would include both marine and Indigenous foods, not just conventional agriculture.
A total of 22 people attended the event, which was the culmination of a three–year project funded in part by the Vancouver Foundation. A final report is due in the near future.
Shobe said a further three-year program may be considered that builds on the existing work.