Agriculture education would fill void

Young, would-be farmers are crying out for training opportunities which the people who would employ them cannot afford.

We talk about wanting more local food but does that show up in how we spend our food budget?

We need an Island agriculture economy if we want to replace the failing industrial food systems supplying supermarkets crammed with only two or three days supplies.

The new agriculture would provide a steady supply of nutritious food and support farm families.

I am drawn to the Transition movement which is sweeping the world because of its commonsense approach: we can’t wait for government, we can’t make change as individuals, so we need to get some practical community actions going and see where they lead.

One such action is being taken by the College of the Rockies in Creston in opening Kootenay Farm School “to bring people together to discover, teach, and support agriculture on a human scale.”

There is a faculty of trades and applied technology at Vancouver Island University which was a respected vocational school before the college, which became the university, moved in up the hill. At VIU a horticulture course is taught which concentrates on ornamental plants, which about sums up the commitment of VIU to agriculture.

The long and honourable history of education in applied studies seems to have disappeared.

When I was at university many of my contemporaries were already at work earning and learning to be accountants, primary teachers, nurses, engineers, physical educators and domestic scientists at specialized training institutes.

They were well established in their careers by the time university graduates emerged.

Then the fashion of turning certifications into degrees arrived.

There were lengthy apprenticeships ending in coveted journeyman status, which guaranteed reliable tradespeople.

People in Canada used to refer to “getting a ticket” but the closest I can get to that is the Red Seal program which I think was developed to overcome barriers between provinces.

B.C. has never trained enough apprentices but today fewer immigrants have trade skills.

More immigrants today are university educated.

Why can’t someone “get a ticket” in agricultural technology in Nanaimo?

Maybe it’s because we won’t pay local farmers enough for our produce to support even apprenticeship wage rates.

Maybe it’s because the $8 billions of our tax dollars devoted annually to agriculture all go to “trade first” industrial agriculture, the kind we definitely don’t want next door to us.

Young, would-be farmers are crying out for training opportunities which the people who would employ them cannot afford.

Why can the College of the Rockies provide such training but not VIU?

The seventh Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit coming up in October lists one panel, participants unannounced, on growing food. Registration costs over $300.

What does “summit” imply, anyway? Is there a whiff of exclusivity there?

Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at

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