West Coast Women – Down on the Farms

Golden Tree Farm on Salt Spring Island, BC

Golden Tree Farm on Salt Spring Island, BC

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks spent doing research on Canada’s west coast it’s that women and agriculture are growing together hand-in-hand.

West coast women are, very much so, down with getting their hands dirty, trading in desk jobs for rural and urban plots of land, and sowing seeds for local and regional food security and sovereignty. They’re doing it as sole proprietors, managers, interns, labourers, educational facilitators, organizers, home gardeners and community members.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been lucky to combine visiting with the best of friends with meeting just a few of the many incredible women farmers living and farming along Canada’s beautiful west coast. It’s been inspiring to meet with them in their homes, on the farms, or over passionate Skype discussions where they’ve opened up about what it means to be a woman who farms and grows food for a livelihood, for her community and family.

Take a look at some of the profile snapshots of women whose stories will be woven into the Canadian chapter of my book:

Women in Urban Agriculture & Food Justice in Victoria, BC

I had butterflies in my stomach when I knocked on the door of Angela Moran, a mother, farmer and flamenco dancer from Victoria, BC , who’s worked tirelessly to grow food in the city and promote local food sovereignty over the past ten years. I spoke with Angela about her experiences as a woman farmer managing Mason Street Farm, growing vegetables and raising chickens, while providing opportunity for aspiring farmers to gain critical skills through a new apprenticeship program offered at Mason Street Farms.

Image-front-cover_coverbookpageWomen Repairing Toxic & Degraded Landscapes in Vancouver, BC

I first met Leila Darwish in 2008 when she spoke at a social justice education conference I was organizing for rural Albertan youth. She presented passionately about the negative impact that oil sands extraction in northern Alberta is having on the environment, health and sustainability of our communities.

Today Leila has taken her oil sands/environmental activism to another hands-on level of gaining knowledge on how to use mushrooms and plants to remedy land affected by oil spills and toxic contamination – which is vital for today and tomorrow’s farmers in Canada and around the world. She recently wrote a book called Earth Repair: A Grassroots Guide to Healing Toxic and Damaged Landscapes. My conversation with Leila has since pushed my research to a deeper level of looking at how women farmers interact with landscapes…(stay tuned!)

 

Christi Salyn, Salt Spring Island, BC

Christi Salyn, Salt Spring Island, BC

Women Building Socially Just Food Systems on Salt Spring Island, BC

One of my favourite interviews so far has been with Christi Salyn of Heartfelt Farms on Salt Spring Island. Christi, originally from Victoria, took it into her own hands to gain experience in growing food and managing farms and property in the gulf islands. After sixteen years living on Salt Spring, today Christi raises Nubian goats and sells the milk in mason jars to her local community. Food costs on Salt Spring Island are “through the roof” and so Christi is helping to ensure new parents can afford goat’s milk for their infants and children. She’s got a ton of ideas under her tool-belt – and she will definitely be a woman farmer to watch in the near future!

Thank-you to all the women farmers, gardeners and activists who took the time to share with me about their experiences in agriculture on Canada’s west coast.

-Trina

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