2015 Farming on Salt Spring Calendar.
“This calendar celebrates our farms and farmers, and agriculture’s role in the development of a strong and sustainable local economy. Sales of this calendar will raise funds to support our work and we also hope it will inspire you, our community, to relish fresh food and support your local farmers.”
In 1859 the first settlers arrived to begin farming on Salt Spring Island — the earliest agricultural settlement in the Colony of Vancouver Island. By the 1890s the largest orchard on the island was shipping 2,400 boxes of apples a year and orchards of ‘winter apples’ had been planted to serve the vitamin-C-deficient miners of the Klondike gold rush. In the early part of the 20th century almost all farmers shipped milk to the local creamery and highly prized Salt Spring butter was exported to Victoria, Vancouver and beyond.
But by the beginning of the 21st century it was a different story. Produc- tion declined after the Second World War, and with ever increasing land prices and new food safety regulations which prevented farmers process- ing their own animals on the farm, there was little left of the once vibrant and productive agricultural landscape.
The legendary Salt Spring lamb that had once numbered in the thousands were reduced to hundreds. Apple orchards were neglected. Produce pro- duction plummeted. The world had undergone the greatest experiment in food production since the shift from hunter/gatherer to small farm communities. Industrialized agriculture saw the birth of factory farms and inhumane conditions for livestock, the use of billions of tons of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers with associated air and water pollution, and the use of genetically engineered crops. The nutritional value of many fruit and vegetables dropped while pesticide residues increased.
Yet at the same time a new generation of back-to-the-landers began pro- ducing organic food and advocating for ethical farming. Today the Local Food Movement is striving to bring food back to the people, along with greater environmental benefits. Slow food. Good food. Healthy food for people and our planet.
On Salt Spring, the agricultural community — produce growers, livestock producers, and local consumers who wanted real food — worked together, and through a series of community dialogues developed an Area Farm Plan to revitalize Salt Spring’s great agricultural tradition.
The formation of the Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance and the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust were important first steps to implementing the plan. Today we find young farmers converting old pastures into produc- tive market gardens, and established and new farmers selling increasing amounts of locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and cheese at the mar- kets in Centennial Park on Saturdays and Tuesdays, and at a multitude of farm stands. A community-owned abattoir, now certified organic, ensures locally produced and processed meats are back on the menus of our res- taurants. Meanwhile plans for a local produce-processing centre are in the works. We are building resilience in our local food system; increas- ing opportunities to experience agriculture firsthand; and celebrating the abundance with farm-to-plate dinners in beautiful locations.
This calendar celebrates our farms and farmers, and agriculture’s role in the development of a strong and sustainable local economy. Sales of this calendar will raise funds to support our work and we also hope it will inspire you, our community, to relish fresh food and support your local farmers.
Eat real. Eat well.
Brian Brett Author of “Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life”