Island farmers come together in Central Saanich event

Networking and learning is the goal of Farmer2Farmer.

Executive Director of CRFAIR

In collaboration with the Young Agrarians, CRFAIR had another successful Farmer2Farmer conference on March 1 and 2. The theme this year was ‘Beyond Competition: Toward Cultures of Cooperation.’

Forming in 1997, Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CRFAIR) began as an informal networking group of organizations and individuals interested in food. CRFAIR Executive Director, Linda Geggie said at that point, food was just beginning to emerge as an issue of concern on whether people were getting healthy food or if people had enough food.

“And also the sustainability of the global food system was starting to be questioned, so people who were interested in looking at what was important about us, about our food system and what we thought we might want to work to make some changes around …” she said.

CRFAIR works in food literacy, the local economy, food access and health.

“The purpose of CRFAIR is to promote healthy, sustainable food systems, how we do that is by bringing groups and organizations together around collective impact,” said Geggie.

It’s working with over 100 organizations to establish long terms goals. Geggie said in this region, individual farmers will produce 25 per cent of the Island’s food by 2025.

“Right now its under 10 per cent so we’ve got a ways to go but events like Farmer2Farmer are one of the things that we’re working together on with a number of different organizations to put on so that we can help to build the capacity within the farm sector to increase their production and to make farming viable.”

In its sixth year, Farmer2Farmer saw farmers from across the region get together to share their knowledge.

There was also a day-long agenda of workshops based on supporting and developing farm business, technical skills, networking and relationship building.

President of the Saanich Fair, Clara Knight, who grew up on a farm said it was great to see young people practice good farming techniques and said the region needs to get farmers together to share, learn and study together.

The workshops had three streams including crop talks, farm business management and profitability.

“To be a farmer now is challenging.,” Geggie continued. “You’ve got to run a business, you’ve got to have growing skills, you have to have marketing skills, you have to employ and manage staff, you have to be able to now deal with your customers and with social media and its very diverse. You kind of have to be a jack of all trades.”

There were three keynote speakers.

Some of the things they spoke about was their farm experience, infrastructure and examples of how they are working with others who have helped strengthen their business.

Geggie said as a farm business, it’s looking at how can they improve the success of their business through co-operating with other farmers.

“Part of this is because the market is really expanding for local food and we have a lot of small scale farmers, how can we move into fulfilling that demand in some of these larger markets?” she said.

In partnership with Young Agrarians, there was also a day focussed on various items to support new farmers, with discussion around how to access land, how to get capital and how to get mentorship and support being a beginning grower.