I guess I was fortunate. I went to a public high school where environmental science was the main course on the menu. In science class we were supposed to have been pithing frogs and dissecting fetal pigs. We did these things but only as a side dish. Mostly we learned about greenhouse gases and their relative potencies, acidification of oceans, habitat loss and the destructive effects of pesticides (DDT at the time). We read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” We were informed of the likely consequences of continued unbridled burning of fossil fuels in the name of progress and were urged to use this information to inform our future life decisions.
The decades following high school can best be described as an extended emergency of studying, career-building, and child rearing. Once I was out of the Emergency Room I picked up where I left off in high school. I started by reading all five of the assessment reports available on-line of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am not going to post the link to the IPCC website because my antivirus has tagged it as insecure. I don’t recall the link being insecure in the past and I am not going to speculate as to why this change occurred for fear of being mistaken for a conspiracy theorist. I have faith in the authors of the report. They are world-class climate scientists and many of them did this work for free.
The IPCC reports were a tough slog. At times I felt like a sixth-grader ploughing through a PhD thesis on Particle Physics. I sweated a lot and ground my teeth. However, I persisted with the help of gallons of strong coffee. My high school teachers were right. We should have started addressing climate change 45 years ago. But, as the saying goes, “the second-best time is right now.”
I was finally ready to join the legions of people who were already working hard to save our planet. I picked agriculture as my portal of entry. It was an easy decision because I come from generations of farmers and spent my career as a Dietitian. I joined the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council (COFPC) to have a like-minded tribe to run with. Most of the other Board Directors are younger than me and they keep me on my toes. I’ve even learned how to blog (sadly for you).
The richness of the COFPC is that not all members and Board Directors share the same backgrounds or primary interests. Some members care most about issues of social justice. They want to uphold the universal right to eat and to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient culturally acceptable nourishing food. Others care about building community and they see food and eating as vehicles for achieving this. Yet others have terrific food skills and want to share these with people who are not so skilled. I want to learn about ways to mitigate the impacts of agriculture on the environment and to spread that knowledge to others. Oh yes… that and to encourage creation of jobs in the local food system so that people don’t have to keep leaving their families to work in the fossil fuel industry.
People ask me if we (The Central Okanagan Food Policy Council) are “getting anywhere.” I think we are. Two years after becoming a Registered Non-profit in 2010 we launched the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project (OFTP). This organization is now a registered charity in its own right. You can access the website at https://fruittreeproject.com. The OFTP provides an extremely valuable service to our community. It behooves all of us to make certain that this program remains viable (hint to businesses, family foundations or generous individuals looking to disperse money to a local cause).
The Central Okanagan community farm is another example of a terrific initiative started by a COFPC member. This organization grows fruits and vegetables on donated land. The produce is given (free of charge) to local social service organizations. The volunteer Founders and Directors of the Community Farm also mentor and teach aspiring farmers. You can access information about the Central Okanagan Community farm on facebook. In the spring, summer and fall this organization needs legions of volunteers. You don’t need to be a farmer or gardening expert to participate, anyone with a willing spirit is welcome.
Policy work is ongoing, and it is tricky. There is a lot of work that needs to be done behind the scenes before policy change happens. The COFPC influences this background work through food action projects such as the Okanagan Fruit Tree Project. Also, just to clarify…. the COFPC does not “do” policy work outright but instead functions as a vehicle or conduit through which citizens of the Central Okanagan are given a voice in policy change. Over this past year the COFPC held a community forum so that citizens of Kelowna could contribute towards a new Agriculture Plan. A similar forum was held in September 2017 to gather community feedback on the proposed National Food Policy.
If you are interested in learning more about the COFPC or already know that you want to join, then please come to our Annual General Meeting:
Thursday December 7th
5 to 7 pm (Potluck dinner begins at 5 pm, please bring an item to share)
Canadian Mental Health Association (Wellness Center)
504 Sutherland Avenue, Kelowna B.C.