The group has been running community and school gardens over the past several years, and have been identifying ways to strengthen the local food system through consultations with farmers and other stakeholders in the food industry. Their community farm project aims to engage youth, attract new farmers to Squamish, and support established farmers while preserving agricultural land. They rallied local farmers to strip down for the cause, and most were willing to go along with it.
Calendar coordinator and Squamish CAN president, Michalina Hunter, was inspired by a past calendar she purchased in 2015. “The nude farming calendar I bought on Indiegogo raised $35,000 for two women to put a downpayment on farm property. I thought it was such a great idea. How amazing would it be if we could raise that much for our organization? We finally decided to go for it this year. We have incredible farmers in Squamish. I hope the idea is just cheeky enough to be successful!”
There are other models of community farms and similar projects nearby. The group toured and learned about the Tsawassen Farm School, Glorious Organics (Aldergrove), Richmond Schoolyard, Fresh Roots Urban Farm (Vancouver), Amlec Organic Limited (Lillooet), Farm Folk City Folk (Vancouver), and others to design the project.
“We’re not the first community to do this,” says Hunter, “We’re really excited about the potential of creating multiple win-wins with this project. It can engage youth in growing food and learning employable skills, it can support new farmers in finding land, it can create shared sales opportunities for established farmers, and it can engage the community in sustainable agriculture. We envision a central educational market garden for us to work on, and then several 1/4 acre to 1 acre plots for new farmers to lease. There will be shared tools, equipment, wash stations, and storage for all the farmers to share. The community farm is really a jumping off point that can support so many other community initiatives.”
Squamish used to be a prosperous agricultural community, growing primarily hops, hay, and potatoes. In fact, hop farming was Squamish’s first major industry. Much of the fertile valley-bottom land has since been paved and built on. Only 2% of Squamish’s remaining usable farmland is currently used for agriculture, yet skyrocketing land prices make it cost-prohibitive for new farmers to get into the industry. Leasing land, on the other hand, has less financial risk, and can allow new farmers to get into the industry, hone their skills, and build credit.
The group envisions starting small with the community farm, then adding components over the years such as a Food Hub, community garden, covered workshop space, and food forest. They have not solidified a location for the community farm, but are exploring different options. Ideally they would own the piece of land, but a long term lease or memorandum of understanding would also suffice.
Perhaps a Squamish-Lillooet Farming Calendar is on the horizon for next year!