Director Watson at the Food Summit, Oct.29


Slide 1:

William White Crow with his wife and niece – Kootenai – 1913

I would like to start by acknowledging the indigenous people who’s land we are meeting on today. And to acknowledge that while I dived deep into the history of our region, I will not be presenting anything on the pre-pioneer/colonist times. While we do know that there certainly were and continue to be very active indigenous people in the Kootenay region and were by far the original inhabitants, this talk will focus on the late 19thcentury /early 20thcentury developments that define where many of our communities are today.

What I do know is that the staple food of the region previous to colonization was salmon. As a member of the CRT LGC, I alongside my colleagues, advocating for all we can to include measure that will support the restoration of salmon within the Columbia Basin. We do know that at the last set of negotiations, this was well received by both the US and Canada. While I am not hearing of any decommissioning of dams, we do know that provisions for restoration and ecological functions are on the table. But I am not here to talk about the CRT.

SO what am I here to talk about today? History that defined our geography which then defined our communities and as such, who we are and most notably where we can go from here in todays dynamic and changing landscapes; figuratively and literally.

Slide 2:

Majority of the historical context I will share I gleaned from several books and research papers but mostly the wonderful works of Joan Lang-  Lost Orchards.

At 74, Joan wrote her Masters in History thesis, Joan was a long-time volunteer in the Touchstones archives, helping to ensure that local stories are honoured and preserved.

We lost Joan in 2018, at the age of 96

I originally read this book when researching a small guidebook I wrote about how to build food security programs in remote regions. Not only was this a fascinating read, it completely changed my view and understanding of the Kootenay.

I dedicate this talk to Ms. Lang, thank you for your years of efforts in documenting our history.

Slide 3:

There were two sets of early settlers:

The colonists from Great Britain and Europe

The duokobors

The mining boom started mid 1800’s- first claims for gold being noted around 1860. Perhaps when records began more so then when the hunt for ore began. In 1886 galena was found throughout the Nelson area, within two years, there were more than 200 claims on Toad Mtn and thus the City of Nelson began.

That is about all I will reference on the mining that first settled the region. However, I will state the mining which lead to the creation of unique to the area distribution systems are what really gave the foundation for the people- who  inevitably, needed to eat.

Both the distribution systems that were born of mining interests and the people that followed are large players it what then transpired into the Kootenay, for a few decades, being hailed at the land where “Money grows on apple trees in the Kootenay the beautiful”

In the early 1900’s, the Kootenays were hailed as the new Utopia for the British. Marketing by developers at the ‘Fruit District of Canada”, the Kootenay soon became well known to great Britain and neighboring European countries.

Advertisements for beautiful oasis at very cheap prices with promises for prosperity. British would bought land. Both the government of BC and our Federal Dominion of the day joined in the marketing campaign. Pensions of war veterans, mostly naval or from military postings,  were used as down payments for land. Britain was in its hey day of Victorian culture that required a significant income to maintain. The rugged landscape of the Kootenay posed an attractive proposal that allowed for people to live a simple life without the society pressure to be more than a hard working, back breaking pioneer.

The land boom was quick and impactful. In 1907, an acre averaged at $2.50, within a few months that doubled to $5 and within the year, up to $100 acre.

Agriculture Canada in those days was very supportive and enabling a vibrant farming economy- most notably with orchards as the main commodity. Funds were provided for large packing sheds on the shores of the lake, alliances with the railroad and sternwheelers were made for ease of transport.

Upwards of 380,000 boxes of fruit were shipped from some of our most remote communities to Great Britain

In 1935, Kaslo won the best cherry in the world at the California International Farm Fair.

Slide 4:

In 1898 Crows Nest Railway opened routes to the east- the prairies from the Kootenay. With this new distribution system came some of the first economic incentives, the government subsidized freight deals to encourage development.

In 1897, Canadian Pacific Railway bought the steamboat line that had been running south to the north of both Kootenay and Arrow Lakes. These steamboats were key to the remote regions such as Lardeau Valley to gain access to markets for the ore rich mountains. When CPR purchased the steamboats, this created a packaged deal for full access from mountain to market.

In 1910, there was only one wharf on Kootenay Lake at Proctor (one of the first communities to be settled by orcharding) Then came the British North American Act that made construction of wharves, lighthouses and other navigation infrastructure a Federal responsibility. Between 1910 -1914, 39 landing sites were constructed between Nelson and Proctor. Roads were now being considered but remained rather rough wagon roads. Spring thaw made the ability to use them rather inefficient.

Slide 5:

By the 1920’s, settlers and their families has transformed the remote wilderness of the West Kootenay into 34 active community and farming neighborhoods.

Steamboats brought all goods including the mail and left with boxes and boxes of fruit. It is said that whomever was on site when the boat landed was responsible for taking the flour sacks of mail and circulating them through the community. The bag would get passed around. Up and down the mountain through the homesteads that scattered about until the bag was emptied. The connection between each other got the mail delivered. ** still a large part of how we connect In our remote regions, if you have ever been to Argenta on mail day, you know what I mean **

Communities were built through shared needs and many celebrations. Schools required at least 20 children to be recognized by the govt. Until then, they would gather at a neighbors cabin, parents shared the cost of the teacher until they could al get together to build a school. Once they had a school, this also provided a place for worship. The Balfour Church is one of these still standing structures- built in 1892.

Slide 6:

Women carried and were employed to do and be a great deal of roles; mother, cook, farmer, fires, haul the water, butcher, baker and Dr’s. With that, the first Women’s Institutes were created; modelling themselves after Farmers Institues. First ones were in Kaslo and Nelson around 1910. These were forums for skill sharing, education and working together for everyone’s betterment. As they were all pioneers, success was a hope for each one and this was a bonded aspect to how these communities were built.

In 1911, the Agricultural Assistance Act formerly recognized WI and granted them funding similar to FI.

Celebrating the bounties was an event of pride! Annual fall Fairs became what they would have called ‘balls’ in GB. These were not only THE place to showcase the blood sweat and tears that turned into delicious food but also, the seasons social gatherings. The first one was held in 1902 and by the 20s, they were so prestigious that MLA’s and the Premier were honorary members of the boards that organized and hosted the events.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the Kootenay had reached a pinnacle point of 400 acres of orchards operated by 523 independent ranchers.

Agriculture Canada joined the promotion game and sponsored Kootenay Growers across the world. In England, local Kootenay grower won the prestigious Silver King Medal

Fauquier strawberries were travelling to the Prairies and praised as the best tasting across all lands and at the highest return of $500/acre.

Kaslo won first prize for cherry in London’s world fair 1909 then gold medal at Worlds exhibition in San Francisco 1916.

Harvest season became the season of no barriers, no matter your religious background, everyone worked together. Doukhobors alongside the British Indian and young people. Long Beach residents recall early mornings during harvest when they could hear the Doukhobor women signing hymns.

By 1910, we were supplying 2/3 of BC Cherry crop netting $11,000/acre.

Another critical support in this success was that of the fruit growers co-op and BC Orchards association began to provide marketing and distribution services.

Fruit Growers Associations were born of Farmers Institutes. Volunteers from the FI built packing sheds with financing from the dept of agriculture.

Coordinated delivery greatly assisted with tapping the markets in the east.

1928 sales were $586,000

Slide 7:

So what happened?


United States production jumped 50% in 1922 and 1926, flooding the market causing rock bottom prices for fruit. Some BC growers panicked and unloaded their fruit into the market. As independents, this undermined the control factor that Associated Growers and many defected. TO aid the association, the BCFGA requested the provincial market step in and control the sale of surplus fruit. This is what gave way for the Produce Marketing Act creating a marketing board. Supply management arrives.

The Ok joins with the Kootenay markets.

Okanogan fruit was earlier, higher yields, better cold storage for shipping. Kootenay fruit could not compete.

Interestingly, as farmers were defecting from the FGA to have more control over their prices, the 1931 the Superior Court of Canada declares the actions of the board unconstitutional as it interferes with interprovincial trading. This ended the board.

By then, we are entering the depression. By 1945 the number of ranchers had declined from 516 to 194 and most were in mixed farming.


Our prized cherries were virtually wiped out by little cherry disease within 7 years of it’s first appearance.

First detected at Willow Point in 1933- spreading rapidly with majority of Kootenay orchard infected by 1941

By then, we are entering the depression. By 1945 the number of ranchers had declined from 516 to 194 and most were in mixed farming.

Distribution System

CPR withdrew their boats and fruit farmers were forced to the road system.

The viability of the community to be prosperous was a direct link to efficient distribution systems. One farmer recalls when the railroad came out, the value of his potato seed crops- renound across the country- dropped drastically.

“ It was not longer cost effective, we had lost our distribution channels and our support systems”

Then in 1949-1950, a serious killing frost.

From 191,000 boxes of tree fruits in 1922 to 12,000 boxes in 1956

Now, the shores and various communities are littered with old orchards that are abandoned.

Although there is abundant harvests- the consequence has been a large increase in bear human interactions and many of the bears get shot. These forgone orchards are no longer worth maintaining- the return on the fruit is so low due to global market prices flooding the market. Making the New Zealand apple, transported via land, air and water cheaper than picking the ones across the street.

Slide 8:

Amidst the climate catastrophe we are in, our food- a daily need- is one of the most powerful tools to make drastic yet sustaining and tangibly impactful choice, 3x times a day +.

In the next few slides, I will do a brief overview of the three primary areas our global food system is known as a primary contributor to our environmental, health and economic crisis’s.

Global trade trumps local food economies, but we are generally still so small, we are not even noticed. The challenge is the market prices from the dominant system and quality of goods set a bar that is hard to stand beside. In all reality, local food systems are entirely different systems than the global and the more we can move local food out of niche and into the mainstream- and by that I do not necessarily mean big box- but into everyone cupboards, the more it gains traction.

The hurdles are big, supports are minimal, but there is a blessed obstacle in it all

Slide 9:

This graph is not meant to judge. The reality of what we consume, for those that can afford it, is likely much healthier than what is shown here. However, those who are living at our below median income in Kaslo, they would have limited options in changing this graph. Cost of food is directly related to the health status of those who live in poverty. Kraft Dinner and cans of tuna are cheaper than a bag of apples

Medical care costs for people with chronic diseases account for 42% of total direct medical care expenditures, or $39 billion a year in Canada.

This study also highlighted that those living in poverty were more likely to suffer from chronic disease- perhaps due to the high cost of healthy food?

What has occurred with our diet over the years? We have shifted WHAT we are consuming; no longer is it predominantly fresh fruits veggies legumes and non toxic meats- we are now consuming a large variety of products. Our diets are now consisting of 51% processed foods, 42% meat, eggs and dairy with the remaining 7% devoted to legumes, fruits, whole grains, and nuts.

With caloric intake increasing 24% in a mere 30 years, it is no wonder that we are also seeing a three fold increase in diabetes during the same time period

In fact, recent research revealed in September 2012’s New Scientists has linked Alzheimer’s and dementia to poor nutrition, indicating these epidemics may be better considered type 3 diabetes. Dr. Trivedi, the scientist, stated “Since calorific foods are known to impair our body’s response to insulin, we may be unwittingly poisoning our brains every time we chow down on burgers and fries”

Slide 10:

The economics of our food system are complex and very much at the root of many of the issues within it.

We subsidize food systems that are unhealthy, destroying the environment and favor large scale production. The true cost of food is far from reflective at the till. University of Essex Professor Jules Pretty has studied the issue of the true cost and found that a global food basket actually cost 16% more than what you pay at the till, where as a local, organic box only requires 3% beyond the till.

Most shocking is the complete erosion of viability for farmers- debt load for Canadian farmers has increased 700% with not cent of net income increasing since 1970

Then there is the actual cost of a nutritional food basket- healthy food is more expensive and junk food is cheap. We are obviously fueling the epidemics in our health, environmental and economic crisis’s.

AS I looked deeper into what was happening to remedy the situation, I found that besides the farmers and a select few NGO’s- not much was changing. Our government was in fact deepening the atrocious trends with trade deals that erode basic human rights. Thus, the food security project was born.

Externalities are moving to the fore front through the climate change impacts. Our cost – as evidenced in health and environment alone, account for a significant impact to the cost of doing business.

Most recently, the financial forecast from RBC indicates:

‘Against a hostile trade backdrop, the global economy is losing momentum. ‘ This is the root of our vulnerability; to what things will cost to access.

Trade tensions between the US and China have ebbed and flowed, but on balance have escalated. And there is still no firm line of sight on how the UK will leave the European Union. Given these tensions, it will once again fall to extraordinarily stimulative monetary policy to sustain global growth as few governments have committed to providing fiscal support

With the need to continuously prop up the global economy to sustain our modern lives, it is more than evident there is nothing sustainable about this situation and collapse, disaster is inevitable.

We have many different ways we could be viable economically, yes the global markets are the dominant factor but other options such as triple bottom line accounting and the circular economy bring me hope. I am very much looking forward to Dr. Love_Ese Chile’s talk at 2pm that will explore these options.

Slide 11:

The environmental reasons are endless, and most appalling, devastating for the very fact that we DEPEND on a healthy environment for adequate, healthy food supply. SO while we are destroying our own health with our modern food system, we are also destroying the health of our dear home- the planet.

Most notably was the shift to an industrial based agriculture after World War 2- known as the green revolution, chemicals that were used in war were also found to be of use in creating herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. These lab creations were combined with innovations in irrigation and thus the green revolution was born. The intent, and immediate results were increased food production. However, these results were short lived with long term impacts we are perpetuating. Not only does it take more inputs to create the food calories we are consuming, but the need for inputs is increasing.

Agriculture uses seven times more oil based synthetic fertilizer than it did a half century ago with no corresponding increase in food production.

So this is the basics of the wrong we are doing agriculture in regards to the environment and admittingly, this information is seeping through to a point where changes are occurring. However, in the imminent and most notably top of our minds, the climate crisis has been largely fueled by how we feed ourselves.

Good news, as Harmony Bjarnason will discuss at 930, is there are ways to grow food in rejuvenative and climate enhancing ways. So many in fact. Number one in my books is soil rejuvenation, not only for nutrient dense food but soil is the foundation to healthy eco systems not to mention and amazing carbon sink.

Slide 12:

Relocalizing our food system is something I have been talking about for at least 20 years, my mentors have been at it for several decades.

Since being in local government, I have now found myself applying this concept to many of our essential needs; utilities, housing, waste recovery – as some examples.

In the book “Insurgencies and Revolutions, a reflection on John Friedman’s contribution to planning theory and practice, bioregionalization is defined as:

“bioregionalization is a localization dynamic. It is fueled by a convergence of mega trends (a perfect storm) that is beginning to force changes in how build and operate our cities, towns and infrastructure and working landscapes and waterways.

Bioregionalization has two defining features:

A shit to increasingly endogenous (local) strategized and means of economic development as compared to the contempary mainstream exogenous (export led-industrialization) emphasis in economic development

Intensification in the ways local bioregional sources of natural capital (soil, water, ecosystems) and natural sinks for wastes are intentionally into economic systems as well as built environments for purposes of realizing sustainable and resilient development

I will explore some aspects to this concept but do want to highlight that further exploration will be made during Rob Avis’s talk at 11:30 titled “building a bioregion”

Slide 13:

How do we do this and what does it have to do with our past?

Well, instead of my own version, John Todd of the New Alchemist says it best:

“I am writing this book based on the belief that humanity will soon become involved in a deep and abiding worldwide partnership with nature.” Yes, the planet is in crisis, but rather than what the New Alchemists called “doomwatch science” – monitoring environmental decline – John Todd has always been focused on practical solutions. “The more we weave together the knowledge that’s been accumulated in the last 100 years, the more we can do things that we never dreamed of,” he says. “We don’t have to invent anything; we just have to pay attention to what’s been learned.”

“Each time we make a connection, as in nature itself, the whole becomes more stable, more strong and more healthy,” John says in the film.

Founded in 1969, the NAI set out to design a sustainable way of living from top to bottom: food, energy and shelter. This was the era of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis

Definity the stereotype of the hippie science; except they were all scientist and did develop some failry radical and extremely efficient systems using mostly waste products.

“The New Alchemists’ alternative was a harmonious system of organic farming, renewable energy, sustainable architecture, waste treatment and ecosystem restoration. No pesticides or chemicals, no fossil fuels, no waste, no pollution, low impact, energy efficient. In other words, they were doing 50 years ago what we’re now realizing we should have been doing all along.”

Slide 14:

Now, I will plug the very importance of local governments in the ideal setting of participatory democracy.

For LG, we have several areas of key interests; resource recovery is a big part of this. Organic Diversion programs, recycling, waste wood- all looking at ways to curtail the volumes and what to do with the tonnage of waste products

LG are on the front lines, whether due to being responsible for the public safety in a natural disaster and other emergencies. as those from the KB witnessed first hand in 2018. We are not immune to the impacts, in fact, most of us are well aware of how much the cost of providing services is sky rocketing due to a mix of regulatory directions, such as the building code to the requirements of the DWPA and the WSA. All well intended and generally, when reading the policies behind them, designed to address a multitude of assumed risks and known impacts we will face. How we implement these are generally rather prescribed by the province and we act as administrators more than the regulators.

When it comes to land use, we have more leeway. My area of 24 communities only has one community that has zoning. Most of the area, however, does have an OCP which provide overall values for the communities that comprise Area D, better known as North Kootenay Lake. While zoning is an essential tool to healthy, efficient and ecologically designed communities, in rural settings it can lack teeth in both the notion that most who live in the wild west are there for reasons of less regulations the better and because zoning is not as useful in remote mountain top communities that do not have congestion or sprawl issues. That being said, zoning is one of the common tools being promoted as essential to our need to reduce our impacts on the planet and build more efficient communtiies. What I will say to that, is yes, if you are in an urban setting. Yes, it is a tool but there are many more and I, as an elected official, need to be really clear on the tangible benefits of any action before I support it.

Here in the Columbia Basin, I can speak for the RDCK when I say we are taking the need for sustainable approach to all services is essential. We have funded several agriculture, food and farming programs. Founding members of the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council, Kootenay Boundary Farm Advisors, currently doing evidence based policy review to ensure our land use policies are in alignment with agriculture plan objectives.

Oh and yes, we did do an agricultural area plan, same with the KB and EK. Who are also partners on the KBFA.

KBFA is the equivalent to the Farmers Institutes of the early 1900’s plus extension agents of the 60-90’s. Rachel from the KBFA will be presenting at 1130

And our President/Chair of the CKFPC is here as well, Ari will be presenting at 3 today.

Combine the wood waste/bio-energy potential in our region and we are then applying the same bio regional principal to our utility grid

Before I was elected but was certainly involved in community development (still my preferred title than politician), I created and had successfully adopted by the Village of Kaslo a Food Charter. The Village was very supportive and required an extensive community engagement process to develop. The community engagement aspect is the nugget that I really need to emphasize with the tool of democracy. Participatory democracy is essential to successful bioregionalization. If the people who the programs are designed to support are not invested nor have they informed the process, they are not going to have those tangible impacts we need to make immense changes.

While the Food Charter is a policy piece, not regulatory, it sets the tone for NGO’s, farmers, the food system as a whole in the bio region of NKL to know and use the Charter as support for innovations in social programming to economic incubation.

Kaslo Food Charter embedded in the VoK OCP

Slide 15:

A few examples of local innovation; connecting back to our historical context. We have an immense amount of fruit still being produced in the region but much of it remains a ‘waste product’. Almost every community now has a combined Bear Smart and Fruit Recovering program. As our heritage trees are now a risk as key animal attractants and there is  no economic incentive to harvest and market them, we see public funding requested annually for social programs that harvest the fruit and redistribute it to those in need of healthy options. The other innovation that has been born of our fruit growing sector is the highly successful mobile fruit press Fields Forwards acquired a few years ago. Press Fests, community gathering days for juicing and harvest fairs where kids can bring their backyard apples and turn it into a winters worth of tasty goodness are increasingly popular. Funding for the fruit press was largely garnered through the Community Works/ga tax funding as it was organics being diverted from the landfill. Simple solution that leads to immense value; health, locally sourced, community building and reduction in waste. Oh! And reduced wildlife impacts.

Food recovery is an essential tool in our bioregional box. We know that over 40% of all food produced in Canada is wasted. When you look at the inputs and impact of growing much of that food, it is astonishing that we can say any of it is ‘efficient’. Far from it. I look forward to our discussion at 2pm at Rafters.

Slide 16

Receonnecting our broken food system is an opportunity to also reconnect our broken social fabrics, communities and individual relationships. Many of the programs and projects we embarked upon became amazing community development catalysts, and can totally re-shape a society. My personal favorite is Will Allen and the Growing Power project- working with those who are directly affected by the ills of the food system to re-create and build not only healthy options, but viable options that can lift communities out of the rural decline we face, poverty that is sky rocketing and above all- sovereignty of what we depend on.

“Restaurants for Change” is an annual fundraising event to support food security organizations across Canada that are part of the Community Food Centres Canada network. Nelson Community Food Centre just partnered with restaurants around Nelson last week on October 16th(World Food Day). Restaurants donated all the proceeds from their meals on that day to the NCFC, to support it’s food security programming.

Slide 17:

Build capacity through supporting the food and farming sector which as a by product; communities are built leading to more resilient regions

Kaslo Food Hub

NKL Food Shed Plan

NKL Farmer Innovation Program

Slide 18:

We are defined by our past

In Kootenays, we are geographical designed by our needs; food and shelter

While history has taught us that our remote and challenging geography can be a barrier, it can also be a protector and the way in which we build sustainable and resilient communities

Learning from our past, applying the principals of bioregionalization through food, energy and housing, we are more then ready to create the realized utopia of our forefathers dreams

By the way, this beautiful farm is for sale at a ridiculously affordable price- and resides in my absolute favorite Kootenay community; Johnsons Landing. Patrick from Stellar Seeds/Kaslo Food Hub is here now and should you be inspired, please talk to him!