Kootenay Summers: A Welcome Return for a Weary Traveller
Well after a vacation-induced “blogging coma”, I am back to my work here on the Creston Valley Food Hub. As I mentioned in one of my last posts in February, I spent the better part of the spring travelling through the highlands of Central America, traversing through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize.
While on the Central American “gringo trail”, my girlfriend & I constantly met other like-minded travelers of varying trip lengths, anywhere from one month to two years. Of course when talking over dinner, in the hostel, or on the road, the topic of the dreaded “d-day” always came up: “When is your departure date?”.
Many of my worldly companions shuddered at the thought of “returning to the real world”. However, I honestly felt differently. While I loved almost every minute of time on the road, there was no way I wanted to miss the magical Kootenay summers on the lake, in the mountains, around the bonfire (or not), and of course in the verdant Creston area!
Murphy’s Law: You turn your back for one second… and everything changes!
Cut off from the world during my sabbatical, I was not expecting a lot of change in the Creston Valley. Small communities traditionally move at a glacial pace. Naively, in my mind Creston would be exactly the same, pausing in time until I got back home.
Boy was I wrong! Instead, I returned to a community buzzing with energy. Thanks to an early spring and an uptick in traffic from south of the border, local businesses have been busy and the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market has consistently been hosting 40+ vendors and large crowds. Taking advantage of this, the Town of Creston has also been using the Farmers’ Market to hear from citizens for it’s Official Community Plan!
Finally, the newest cohort of the LEAP program, a 10 week intensive young entrepreneur program sponsored by Kootenay Employment Services and Simon Fraser University, pitched their business proposals at a community fundraising gala hosted at Baillee-Grohman winery in early June. Of the five young entrepreneurs, it was a young welder’s dream to fabricate custom farm equipment that ended up as the top pick of the evening.
Fields Forward in Full Swing
The momentum of the Fields Forward Forum in January has since kick-started a series of agri-food initiatives, sponsored by the now ongoing Fields Forward program. For example, one working group has begun investigating opportunities to distribute more Creston Valley products to the Nelson area and along the east shore of Kootenay Lake. Yet another group has been addressing the increasing and pressing demand for accommodations for the seasonal migrant workers who arrive in the Creston Valley every July to pick cherries.
The hiring of Paris Marshall-Smith as the Fields Forward Coordinator in March 2016 has also provided these working groups with a new level of experience and capacity. Coordinating food services at the Yasodhara Ashram on Kootenay Lake in Riondel, Marshall-Smith oversaw the procurement of foods, management of many volunteers, and the annual preparation of 65,000 meals (with 60% of the ingredients sourced locally).
And all this activity in the Creston area hasn’t gone unnoticed either. CBC British Columbia posted a news story on the migrant pickers accommodations initiative earlier this year. The Fields Forward program even got a big shout out in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly by Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall (who may or may not have read this blog for details ;). Clearly there are eyes on the Creston Valley right now.
Fields Forward Celebration: Good Tunes, Last Minute Weather, and a Big Announcement
By the time I got home in late May, six months had already passed since the Fields Forward program had kicked off. Having missed so much I was pretty keen to catch up on everything, so when Paris from Fields Forward asked me to help her organize a Community Picnic for Saturday, June 18th I was more than happy to help.
It seemed like a good time to celebrate, before summer vacations sent people into their gardens, out to the lake, or off to weddings. Of course as every Canadian wedding planner and event coordinator probably learns, June is that fickle month that gives you balmy sunshine one day and freezing cold rain the next!
While the celebration was originally slated as a sunny community picnic in Creston’s Centennial Park, surprisingly unseasonable weather forced us to make a last minute scramble for the indoors. But as three months on the road taught me: It’s not an adventure if it goes according to plan!
Thanks to the awesome last minute support of Paul Hutchison at the soon-to-be-closed Sasquatch Music and Arts venue , we were able to find a new home for the event. Finally, the foot-tapping tunes of Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra and the Eisenhauers, coupled with local prizes from Kootenay Crates, Tigz Teas, Fooby’s Food Store, Fit & Fresh Juice Bar, and A Break In Time Café helped energize the room and keep spirits up despite the poor weather outside.
However, the biggest surprise of the day was not the weather, but an unexpected announcement. During an interlude in the music, the Field Forward Impact Team announced that they will be putting together a business plan for purchasing a community owned mobile juicing unit. Available to members of the community and other user groups like Harvest Share, a mobile juicing unit would allow people to use culled tree fruits and pitted fruits to make juices!
As many people in the Creston area will tell you, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch so much produce go to waste every year due to small cosmetic blemishes that make them commercially unsalable. While nothing is official yet, this announcement comes as a very welcome one to a community that loves to can, dry, ferment, and juice all the bounty that abounds here. Fingers crossed I’ll be sipping some fresh-pressed juices from my orchard soon!
Stay Tuned: More to Come from Fields Forward
While there is likely to be a bit of a lull in news and big announcements over the summer, there is probably much more happening in the background in the Fields Forward Initiative. Be sure to stayed tune as there is certain to be more big news coming from the Creston area in the near future. In the meantime, be sure to check in here at the Creston Valley Food Hub for updates and otherwise entertaining insights from yours truly. Otherwise, enjoy another glorious Kootenay summer! Cheers!