Farmers’ Institutes enjoy a respected history in our culture as builders and supporters of rural and urban communities. In 1914, our institute was granted a leasehold on property by the E&N Railway in the village of Coombs - hence, the name "Coombs Farmers' Institute" was adopted for this region. Our Institute is 102 years old, is volunteer-based and serves the following mid-Vancouver Island communities:
President: Janet Thony Vice President: Kim Mauriks Treasurer: Cindy Van Duin Secretary: Nicole Shaw Directors: Brian Robinson, Sam Pickard, Barbara Smith, Cecil Mercer, Glen Hersley, Colin Springford (Past President)
When we attend or speak at community events, (farm/food related or not), we repeatedly receive the same message from the public, young and old, farmer and non-farmer alike: a deep concern for the safety and sustainability of our food supply, for the environmental impacts of large scale corporate model agriculture and their lack of trust in the safety of imported foods. Their perceived solution to this is universal and understood globally. That is, their right and ability to build personal relationships with farmers in their own communities, whose practices are transparent and require little or no regulation.
The presence and vitality of local farm organizations provides an easily accessed resource for local and municipal governments to call upon, resulting in community-based solutions to local problems. We are also hearing an increased demand from non farmers for help in learning how to be self-sufficient.
The objectives of the Coombs Farmers’ Institute, enshrined in the 1897 Farmers' and Women's Institute Act, are:
A. to improve conditions of rural life so that settlement may be permanent and prosperous.
B. to promote the theory and practice of agriculture
C. to arrange on behalf of its members for the purchase, distribution or sale of commodities, supplies or products.
D. to act generally on behalf of its members in all matters incidental to agricultural pursuits and rural development
E. to promote home economics, public health, child welfare, education and better schools.
The funds of the institute shall be devoted solely to the promotion of the objectivess of the institute as set out in the constitution.
Consumers are educating themselves and demanding food products that they deem to be healthy, are grown using sound agro-ecological principles, do not displace or harm indigenous cultures nor whose producers profit from unfair labour practices. Simply put, regenerative, thus, sustainable agriculture. Regenerative agriculture methods are certainly not new to any culture. There are many messages that can be delivered under the banner of sustainability, and the following only scratches the surface of this immense topic:
1. The concerning loss, globally speaking, of top soil resulting from non-regenerative agriculture and development practices.
2. The perpetual over-use of groundwater aquifers by farmers and non-farmers alike.
3. The lack of understanding around the symbiotic, rather than the destructive, approach when grazing livestock in order to maintain healthy eco-systems.
4. The damage we do to our pollinators through mono-culture farming, habitat destruction and chemical use.
5. The essential importance of composting, both large and small scale, to create healthy soil amendments which, when applied correctly, make marginal soil types productive, as well as reducing air quality problems connected to the burning of carbon.
6. The serious loss of crop and seed diversity brought about, predominantly, by a corporate approach to food production, in the name of efficiency and economy of scale.
7. The need to address the constraints placed on young aspiring agrarians, by some zoning and bylaw regulations, and the difficulty in finding affordable land.
8. And, the oxymoron… “agricultural waste”. On a well-managed, and by inference, properly populated farm, this mis-labelled by-product is treated like the gold that it is, removing the need to regulate it’s storage or removal.
The Community Agriculture model, whose collective voice is represented by our Farmers’ Institutes, is perfectly positioned to address all of these impacts on communities and our environment.
Farmers Institutes on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands: