Network Sharing ~ invitation to update!

Hello Everyone and Happy New Year!

Each month I attend the Mount Waddington Health Network (MWHN) Table of Partner (TOP) Meeting. This meeting is a gathering of partners from around the region representing work that is being done towards the Social Determinants of Health in our region. Each month the representatives are encouraged to share a monthly update through the lens of the social determinant in their focus.

As you know, a goal of the Mount Waddington Community Food Initiative is to help build a regional food focused network. Another goal is to help keep us informed and connected.
The Health Network TOP is an efficient way to help spread the word, there are currently 20+ regional partners from a broad range of organizations, at the table. Beyond the meeting, each of us is encouraged to share our learnings from the table with our home organizations and community.

I’d like to offer to share your food focused updates at the TOP.

To do so, I have created a simple google survey form that asks 2 questions:
1) What is your update for the group? (could include projects, asks for help, job postings, etc.)
2) Are there any upcoming events you want the group to know about?

If you would like to submit an update, please let me know and I will email you the survey. The survey will only take a few moments to fill out and you submit it electronically.   I’ll need the survey returned by the last day of each month.  Once the updates are compiled I will happily share them back with whoever would like to read them.

Updates big and small are welcome!

Community Health Networks are a great way to share information widely and efficiently. Let’s use our Health Network to help share our news.

Leslie Dyck ~ Coordinator, Mount Waddington Community Food Initiative


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2017 North Island Farmers Markets

I often hear people say that they wish we could have a local Farmer’s Market.  Well, depending upon what the word “local” means to you, we do!

This year there will be at least 2 markets operating within the region 🙂

So far, there are two Farmers Markets in the region advertising market dates in 2017,  the North Island Farmers and Artisans Market, and the Port Alice Community Market. I will be sure to publish the full market schedules as soon as I see them.

Below are the dates being advertised for the North Island Farmers and Artisans Market.  The markets in February and April will be held indoors at the Lions Hall in Port McNeill.  New Vendors are always welcome ~ experienced or not.  Please email Neva or Shannon for more information at




So far there is just one date being advertised by the Port Alice Community Market, which is February 11th, but I am certain there will be more dates announced soon.  This market started up last June and has been growing ever since.   More members are welcome.


The best place to watch for more information is on the Facebook page (search for “Port Alice Community Market”), but if you are not a Facebook user you can contact Rose at 250-284-3513 or email:






Are there any other Farmers Markets being planned for this upcoming season?  If so please let us know, and let me know how I can help things along 🙂

Leslie Dyck,

Coordinator, MW Community Foods Initiative



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Don’t Be Chicken!

I am so excited to announce that registration for our upcoming “Don’t Be Chicken” workshop has opened. We will be teaching you the in and outs of keeping urban hens while abiding by the Port Hardy Urban Agriculture by-law guidelines.


This workshop has been a dream of mine for about 3 years now, and it so great finally see it come to life.  I need to give credit for the creative name of our workshop to Jessie Hemphill, and also many thanks for her hard work (and the many other change makers) in bringing the Port Hardy Urban Agriculture bylaws into place.

Here is a link to the registration page for the workshop.  Register soon as seats are limited.

Beyond drawing on local knowledge, we are pleased to be welcoming Duncan Martin as our guest speaker for the event.

If you don’t have a by-law in place your North Island Community that supports the keeping of Urban Hens, then this will be a good place to learn about ways you might initiate that change.

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Seedy Saturday ~ April 22nd!

In partnership with the North Island Farmers and Artisans market, the MW Community Foods Initiative is welcoming you to get involved in our annual Seedy Saturday event, which is on April 22.  This is a regional event, and your participation helps us grow every year. Seedy Saturdays are a great place to connect with other growers in the region, share and learn new skills, and help to build regional food security.
I have signed up to organize the free workshop part of the event. The workshops were a big hit last year, and we had some great local presenters come forward to share their skills.  The workshops each will be 30 minutes long, and time permitting we would like to offer them more than once over the course of the day.
I am looking for someone who could …
* show us how to care for and/or sharpen garden tools
* give us an intro to tree pruning
* teach us about composting
*show us how to 4 season garden
*teach us about seed saving
We would love to offer a variety of workshops, so if you have a skill you would like to share or a topic you would like to lead a discussion on please let me know.
Just like last year we also be offering table displays, a seed swap, a plant swap, a kidz zone, and hopefully have some things for sale as well.  So if hosting a workshop is not your thing, then please consider volunteering for one of these roles.  Another thing you could do is help us spread the word – when the time comes – as we are still working out the location and the times 🙂
Have a great weekend,
Leslie Dyck
Coordinator ~ Mount Waddington Community Food Initiative
ps is anyone else planting leeks in their greenhouse this weekend?
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Update ~ Farm to School BC Learning Session.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Farm2School BC Learning Session.  Many thanks as well to  Aaren Topley and Vanessa Perrodou for your informative presentation.

In his follow up email Aaren mentioned that there were a number of people from our region who attended the webinar, and that there may be interest in gathering to continue the conversation, and supporting each others work.   Please reply here or contact Leslie directly to express your interest in meeting further to create a local school garden network.

As promised, below is the link to the recorded webinar.  I hope you are having a great summer!

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Notes from the Strathcona School Garden Support Webinar

In April I attended an excellent webinar that was hosted by the Strathcona Food  Action Committee.  Below are my notes.  ~please let me know if you have questions or if something doesn’t make sense ~ Leslie

School Garden Webinar – Strathcona Food Security Project                    April 6, 2016

Presenter #1:  Elaine Codling, School Garden Coordinator, Lake Trail Neighbourhood Connections

  • This garden is in its 7th year (near Courtney)
  • The garden motto is “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share”

Tips/Knowledge Sharing

  • People are the limiting factors of the school garden
  1. Human resources are a key element ~ sharing of information and communication is especially important between administration, teachers, staff, students, parents, and the wider community – share your garden goals widely
  • Bring the PAC on board in the early days, they will help increase the stability of your garden and can help build your vibrant outdoor learning space
  • Be sure to choose a site that has easy access to both water and sunlight. Also think about access for wheelbarrows, trucks delivering soils. Ask what you will do with the weeds, and plants that are pulled ~ composters? Easy access to a side door to the school that is near a sink, washroom, and handwashing staition is also good this way dirt won’t be as likely to be tracked through the school – is there an outdoor entrance into the room where food will be washed and prepared?  Where will you store the food?  Where will you store your tools?
  • Find ways to minimize weed pressure. This is important because the school year does not match the garden year.  Mulch is a good way to keep the weed pressure down. Another tip is to leave plants in the ground until you need the space for something new.
  • Plan at least 4 feet between the beds – this will help access to the garden especially when large classes want to visit. Plan for space all the way around the beds so that people don’t need to walk through or step in the beds to access the center.
  • Grow tall plants on the north side of the garden. Use the space shaded by the tall plants to grow shade tolerant plants
  • Keep the garden producing plan crops for an early, late, and mid-season harvest. Themes for harvest is fun and educational ~ Plant salad mixes in May if June is “salad month”
  • Plant self-storing crops for future use (squash, pumpkins)
  • Make a plan for the summer months – allow a local family to adopt the garden, put it to rest, or plant it with pumpkins and squash – don’t leave the dirt bare as the weeds will take over.
  • In September plant bok-choi, lettuce, and Asian greens.



Presenter #2 Arzeena Hamir – Amara Farms near Courtenay

  • Before moving to Vancouver Island Arzeena worked with the Richmond Food Security Society.
  • She helped develop a garden at her daughters school

Tips/Knowledge Sharing

  • Find a space that has great access – this garden started at the front of the school using one of the abandoned flower beds
  • Here is a link to a School Year Garden Toolkit
  • Grow foods that tell a story , for example grow Asian Vegetables like bokchoy link it the curriculum and tell the history behind these vegetables
  • Grow vegetables that have less days to harvest for peas choose snap or snow peas and dwarf versus climbing.  Radishes take 30 days from seed to plate. Nugget potatoes, Baby carrots – direct seed these every two weeks.
  • Grow perennial vegetables like strawberries, asparagus, arugula, rhubarb, herbs, and French sorrel.
  • Fundraising ideas – garlic, seed potatoes, strawberry plants
  • Use sterilized steer manure

Presenter #3 Jeremy Kirouac – Good Food Project, based on Quadra Island, but deliveries go from Nanaimo to Courtney.  There are a number of great resources on the website.

  • Focus of this project is how to make it easier for families to grow and eat healthy food
  • Right plant to start at the right time





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Farm to School BC Learning Session

Over the last year, a number of people have reached out to me with questions about school gardens – how do we get started, what should we plant, and are there any funding opportunities? To be honest, I am a beginning gardener and I have never been part of a school garden. BUT, one of the (many) cool things I get to do in my role as Coordinator of the Mount Waddington Community Foods Initiative is connecting with people who do have this expertise, and experience.

Within the “networking food hub model” and my role as “connector”, I get to help link you with resources within our community as well as highlight and connect you with similar work (and resources) being done across the island and beyond. These connections, of course, run both ways and it is always great to highlight and share the innovative work happening in our region as well. You can read more about the networking food hub model here.

Currently, I am helping to coordinate an island wide Farm to School BC webinar.

The purpose of this post is twofold. First of all, I am seeking participation from existing local groups, projects, and schools who do Farm to School type work. Asking, would you like to be a webinar presenter, sharing the good work you do linking learners to fresh locally grown food?  I know the expertise exists within our region ~ as many of you have connected with me 🙂 Please consider this invitation to share your learning journey, big or small ~ beginning projects or those more developed.

Secondly I’d like to ask your help with spreading the word about this upcoming event (date TBD but we are looking at May 18th 330-5:00). The invitation will be ready for circulation on April 27th and I’d like it to reach many inboxes across our region.

~ any guesses of how many interested people there are in the region?

It would be good for the invitation to reach interested school administrators and employees, PAC’s, volunteers, local groups… Please check back here on April 27th for the Event Bright invitation, and then share it with others. If you are a member of the MTWADFOODS listserve, the invite will come directly to your inbox. You can subscribe people to the email listserve here.

Farm to School BC Learning Session (below is a sneak peek at the details).

Learning Session Description (draft)

Want to start your own Farm to School program at your school and not sure where to start? Want to learn about innovative ways island schools are getting fresh local food into minds and on the plates of their students? The Vancouver Island Farm to School BC Webinar is bringing together schools and community organizations across the island that want to do Farm to School type programs in their schools. This webinar will explain what farm to school is, how to being building a program in your school and what other schools throughout the island are doing. There will opportunities to ask questions throughout the webinar.


thanks for reading all the way to the end of this post because, Ok there is a third task… it is an easy ~ but very important one….. I’d like to help tailor this event to our needs – please feel free to respond to me with questions you would like answered within the learning session, and I will help to get them onto the agenda.


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Let’s Gather and Grow

It’s so great to see all of the Food Security activity that has happened, is happening, or is about to happen across the region.

Food Security is a phrase we often hear these days, but what does it really mean? I really like the explanation given in the Summer 2014 edition of the Island Health Magazine.  You can find the full article here

Food Security is a phrase often heard these days. While it may conjure up visions of locking up your broccoli, what it really means is that healthy food is available on a regular basis now, and into the future for everyone in our community.  Food Security means that we all have the skills, the time and the tools to make healthy choices and nutritious meals for our families. It means that healthy food is affordable, and easy to access, that we can find foods that fit with our cultural and religious values.

Below is just a snapshot of the activity I have noticed over the last while.  I am also positive that there are more activities to be announced. (feel free to comment below with missing activities)

Cultivating Farms, Farmers, and Food Security workshop , Salmonoids in the Classroom, Pro-D camps at the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre, Agricultural Opportunities workshop in Alert Bay, North Island Farmers and Artisans market had 2 winter markets, at least two school PAC’s sold Local to BC produce bundles for fundraising, The Good Food Box program continues to run in Gwasala NaxWaxDaxw, the students at Eke-Mi-ki have been smoking fish, Forks Over Knives film screening at SDA church, the community garden in Sointula became a non-profit, the Tsaxis Community Garden and Awinakola Project grows food (with the help of preschoolers) which is then enjoyed at the Elders luncheons, Sing Into Spring event in support of the Foodgrains Bank with the St. Columbas Anglican United Church, cheese making workshops happened,  KEDC built a cold storage facility in Port Hardy, many meals have been served at the Salvation Army, the Harvest Food Bank continues to provide food to people in need, the Sointula Community Market Stand is being stocked regular with fresh produce, foodsharing happens over fences and on social media, interest in school gardens and community gardens is rising,  a mushroom cultivation workshop with Grassroots Garden and Forest Farm, Seedy Saturday, the RDMW updated its regional plan including a new section on Agriculture, Food Connects Us All Health Forum, and the hosting of the Traditional Foods Conference in Tsaxis .

That is a lot of food related activity, right?

I’d like to propose an idea. I am wondering if the organizers of these events/activities, and any other invested people, projects and/or agencies would like to gather around a table, share our experiences, learn from the feedback we have received, and let each other know where we are headed in the future?

I see a great opportunity for regional networking and identifying any shared goals. I am thinking late May or early June? Together we would need to find a gathering place, and a time that works. It would also be great if someone would volunteer to chair the meeting. Let me know if you are in!

Email me at  or Call/Text: 250-230-1879

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Cooperation vs Competition from a farmer perspective

We all play an important role in regional food security.

Please join us for an inspiring and interactive evening with Arzeena Hamir, Professional Argrologist and Vancouver Island organic farmer.  Click here to register for your free ticket.

“Cooperation vs Competition from a farmer perspective” 

  • Discuss and identify the needs and challenges of new, potential, and existing local farmers, growers, and market vendors.
  • Interact with Arzeena and learn about the benefits of working in cooperation vs competition.
  • Help develop a snapshot of regional small and diversified farms.

Speaker Bio: 

Arzeena Hamir is a Professional Agrologist who specializes in organic food production. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Crop Science from the University of Guelph and her Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of London, England. Arzeena worked abroad for many years as a CUSO volunteer in Thailand and as a researcher in Jamaica, India, and Bangladesh.  arzeena photo

She was the staff agrologist for West Coast Seeds in the late ’90s and ran her own seed company, Terra Viva Organics. From 2008-2012 Arzeena was the Coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society where she oversaw a number of community projects which included a proposal to the City of Richmond to declare itself a GMO-free Zone. In 2010, in conjunction with Kwantlen University, Arzeena helped to launch the Richmond Farm School.

She currently sits on the boards of the Certified Organic Association of BC and the BC Investment Agriculture Foundation. She and her husband run Amara Farm, a 25 acre certified organic farm, in Courtenay, BC. You can read more about Amara Farm at

Who Should Attend this meeting?

This meeting is open to the public with special invitation to;

Potential and Existing Farmers, Growers, Market Vendors, and Youth


Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

For more information contact :

Leslie Dyck  (talk/text) 250-230-1879

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Last Chance to Register for Food Connections 2015: Get Social

Registration closes October 23rd at noon

Food Connections 2015: Get Social Wednesday, 28 October 2015 from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM (PDT) Parksville Community Conference Center Cost: Free! Registration Required:

Food Connections is Vancouver Island’s FREE annual gathering of community food security champions intended to bring people together from across Vancouver Island who are working to build a healthier food system. This year, we invite you to “Get Social”; network with your peers in the field of food and take part in skill building mini-workshops focused on four key pillars of our work as change makers and community leaders;

Social Media:  strategic use of online tools to get your message out

Social Marketing:   designing programs that create behavior change

Social Enterprise:  alternative options for sustainable funding

Social Change:  effective collaboration through collective impact

(Plus join us for an after-event work party at the Family Place Munchkinland Garden 4-5pm)

Register Here:

*A limited number of travel subsidies are available for those who require financial support to attend; please contact for details and to request a subsidy

Who should attend:

People who work on food security initiatives across Vancouver Island

Members of the not-for profit community involved work related to food security

Members of the farm/fishing/processing community

Traditional food harvesters

Educators and School Board staff

Local government representatives

Health and Wellness professionals

Questions?  Contact:

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