A Cowichan-centric food security symposium is being held at VIU’s Cowichan campus on Oct. 20. This daylong symposium will feature local food activists, farmers and food producers, and VIU faculty members discussing the issues of food security in the Cowichan Valley.
Panel discussions by food experts and community groups will cover topics such as the history of food self-sufficiency on Vancouver Island, conservation of heritage livestock and food crops, as well as delve into the “slow food movement,” which encourages traditional agricultural practices and foods to be preserved and not be eliminated by the competitive global marketplace.
Toni Smith, an English professor at VIU says that the event will also be a networking opportunity for consumers to connect with food producers directly.
“What we’re trying to do in the symposium is bring together people from a whole variety of different backgrounds. There will be people there with the ministry, there will be people who are doing small farming, and there will be people who are doing larger scale farming. We want to see more connections between individual consumers and the people who are producing their food and try to strengthen the farming situation that we already have on the Island while encouraging new farmers to come into play—just a whole variety of possible solutions,” Smith says.
She adds, “the level of security that we have [on Vancouver Island] is not great. The three-day supply of food in the grocery store would definitely run out pretty quickly if we all needed it. There is an organization called the Cowichan Green Community [that] publishes a map of all the different farms and places where you can buy food locally. I think their goal with that is to make sure that the community knows that if they couldn’t get food from the grocery store—where else is there food on the Island that they could go to and they’re trying to build up that awareness of the network that’s out there as well as increase it and have people buy from those places more often,” Smith says.
She says that there are a lot of VIU faculty who are passionate about food issues and security.
“The interesting thing about VIU is that we have lots of faculty here for whom food issues are really important even if that’s not their area of teaching or research. Anna Atkinson, who teaches in the English department, will be speaking at the symposium. She is an active member of the Island’s heritage livestock association and really concerned with conserving heritage breeds of livestock that are better suited to small farming on the Island than the hybrid breeds that have been developed for industry.
Smith adds that there is a lot of exciting food security research conducted at VIU. Noting that Jenny Horn, a Grants Facilitator and Honourary Research Associate at VIU whose research areas include rural community development and small scale agriculture will be giving a lecture on history of the ways that VIU has participated in and supported small agriculture and food research. Food security research extends to the Institute of Coastal Research—Michele Patterson is studying the security of seafood. Lynn Wytenbroek, a VIU English professor, will be
teaching a course in the English department on slow food and literature next semester.
The food symposium will be held Saturday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the lecture theatre at VIU’s Cowichan campus, rm. 104.
Cost of attending is $20, which includes a locally produced lunch as well as coffee, tea, and snacks.
Please RSVP online by Thursday, Oct. 18, at
<www.viu.ca/register/foodsecuritysymposium> to secure a lunch reservation. For more information, contact Smith at <Toni.Smith@viu.ca>.