Hearty Winter Vegetables

Regarded within Central Kootenay as the core of agricultural activity, the Creston Valley has the potential to produce food for the entire Kootenay Region and beyond.

But there are a few problems in the way.

Like many other farming communities, Creston faces challenges including aging farmers and year-round vegetable production in a colder climate. Often when consumers purchase imported vegetables during the winter, they continue the habit during warmer months, undermining local farming.

With IAF’s help, the College of the Rockies took a two-birds-one-stone approach to these issues. From its Creston Valley campus greenhouse, it educated children, youth and families on local food production and provided opportunities to grow winter crops.

Jean Hoover, a program participant and avid gardener who supplies farmers markets, praises the program’s potential to empower the community: “Its about allowing everyone to participate in food production and showing you can get something from practically nothing…even people without yards are growing wonderful produce from their balconies!” Besides demonstrating practical techniques for winter growing, Hoover finds the mere idea behind the program is a powerful tool. “When it comes to local winter crops,” she explains, “there is a gap in the market…this is a concept with tremendous commercial potential.”

True to Hoover’s prediction, program coordinator Anita Sawyer confirms that producers have already begun to diversify their crops and growing season to include a winter harvest. Sawyer believes the year-round production model holds great potential for growers across BC and anticipates an increasing focus on locally produced food, rather than “relying on produce being trucked in.”

According to Sawyer, the project also facilitated connections between agri-businesses, youth and community. “We are seeing many high school student participants exploring careers in agriculture and getting their friends involved.”

With the education of current farmers, the development of future ones, and increasing awareness of local food production on the part of consumers, the winter harvest project is helping to secure the long-term growth and sustainability of BC agriculture. While the information is particularly valuable in the northern climates, the principles of all-season grown can be applied everywhere.

Funding: $55,000 provided through the former federal-provincial Safety Nets framework (A0588)