Community Networking as a Region
Resource Person: John Wilcox, of Duck Creek Farm on Salt Spring Island... my favourite quote of his from this session: "I'm not an activist, goddammit, I'm a citizen."
Sharing information can bring us together, and information can dissipate our energies. This session had 24 participants who for the most part expressed dismay at the enormous information overload that can happen with the broad set of issues in the food sector, and yearn for a better sense of unity.
The discussion kept coming back to these central themes.
We need a simple, effective, quick way for current regional and broader global food system issues to be highlighted, either via website or email. There are a huge number of small organizational websites and listservs that provide excellent information... in overly specific, or redundant ways.
It's the 21st century post-industrial blight. Too much choice is no choice at all; people just file stuff away to read later, and never get to it.
A few people asked for something like a craigslist clone devoted to food issues, with a select list of key issues wisely edited and parsed out for political importance, as well as a place for all the myriad BC food and ag organizations to post links and brief notices of events and alerts. Aggregating the work of various sites would be useful too. Again, a yearning for a comprehensive, trusted source wrapped in simplicity.
Of course, there are a few sites that try to do this, but aren't succeeding for various reasons. Funding would be at the crux of the success of such a venture.
This information proliferation is directly related to the lack of unity in food-related organizations in the province. And yes, while the discussion was intended to be 'regional' in the sense of the islands bioregion, the general drift was that people were thinking in terms of policy jurisdiction, and referring to BC as the region.
The extensive list of various food sovereignty interest groups throughout BC means a fair bit of redundancy in organizing efforts, and a watered-down effectiveness. John Wilcox raised the notion of a provincial federation of food and ag groups that would have a strong voice. Concerns about strong personality conflicts and centralization of power could be addressed through smart confederation, and media management of the issues would be much better, with the ability to provide clearer messages.
These are huge issues, but entirely achievable. I think there's a lot of room for discussion here. I worked at FarmFolk/CityFolk as the resident geek for five years, and have plenty of opinions on both themes, but think I'll leave it there for discussion; comment away!
Some relevant links from the group:
http://ffcf.bc.ca -- FarmFolk/CityFolk
http://31square.com -- Saturna Eats
http://forums.bcac.bc.ca/index.php -- BC FARM Knowledge Network
http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca/foodsecurity/foodsecurityhome.cfm -- Islands Trust's new food security site
we all eat for a living