On Sunday March 12, the Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands Convivium gathered to celebrate Canadian Terra Madre Day with an all-day event at historic Providence Farm. The 400-acre farm is the former home of the Sisters of St. Anne’s, a Catholic order of nuns known for creating frontier settlements in the wild Canadian west in the 1800s. Today the farm is home to a variety of community groups working to help people with physical and developmental barriers through horticultural training programs, a farm market and a therapeutic riding school.
The day kicked off with a screening of films held in a restored chapel. Canadian filmmaker, Nick Versteeg of DV cuisine, showed two of his films which featured the 2004 edition of Terra Madre in Turin and the local Slow Food school exchange and garden project at Edward Milne School in Sooke British Columbia, a high school with an accredited culinary program.
After the films, a panel discussion featured Vancouver Island delegates from Terra Madre 2004 explaining how attending the event had inspired them to continue and expand their production of artisan food on Vancouver Island. ‘I don’t know if I would have gotten through the year if it hadn’t been for attending Terra Madre,’ stated Lyle Young, the Cowichan Bay pastured poultry producer, who subsequently took the plunge and opened a provincially inspected slaughter facility, something the island had been missing for six years.
The panel also included cheesemaker Hilary Abbott, baker Cliff Leir and fourteen-year-old Julian Obererlacher, who attended Terra Madre as a filmmaker, interviewing the likes of Vandana Shiva and Percy Schmieser, the Saskatchewan wheat farmer sued by Monsanto. The daytime activities concluded with a taste workshop of breads from Canada’s first Presidium, Red Fife Wheat, and a tour of the lovely farm in the afternoon sunshine.
Later that evening, five chefs, two bakers and 17 culinary students from both the Edward Milne High School and Malaspina University College collaborated to cook and serve a four-course meal consisting almost entirely of products from the clean ocean waters, forests, vineyards, hives and fields of Vancouver Island (despite a week of erratic weather conditions which included a mid-March snowstorm).
‘It was wonderful to see such a wide array of food producers and culinary enthusiasts under one roof,’ said Slow Food Canadian Councilor and Island resident Sinclair Philip. ‘Here on Vancouver Island, Terra Madre Day was a resounding success.’
Submitted by Mara Jernigan, co-founder of the Vancouver Island Convivium and Canadian representative to the International Ark Commission