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Fresh local food for families goal of new EcoSociety program

Everyone deserves access to healthy food. That’s the starting point for Farms to Friends, a new program this summer bringing local organic produce to low income families and seniors in the West Kootenays.

Food security is one of the pillars of West Kootenay EcoSociety’s work, and the idea and funding for Farms to Friends came together quickly for a project that everyone involved is calling a win-win.

“It is a really fulfilling project for everyone. We’re working with three local organic farms to bring weekly deliveries of their produce to 54 low income families in the region” says Montana Burgess, West Kootenay EcoSociety executive director.

"The farmers are stoked to be part of this, the families who are receiving the food are so appreciative, and the volunteers who are helping us deliver it are enthusiastic about it."

“We had an immediate response from organizations in several communities to help us connect with their most vulnerable people who would benefit most from the delivery of healthy, quality produce," Burgess adds.

"That’s the goal of Farms to Friends, connecting the people most in need, especially during Covid-19, with a reliable source of healthy food."

Breland Athies works at the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society (COINS), one of the organizations that helped connect EcoSociety with families to receive the produce.

"Farm fresh food baskets provide an opportunity to connect with and feel supported by other members and organizations in the community, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Food baskets also connect us to local farmers which strengthen those relationships and create awareness of local food supplies. These connections can have a ripple effect of strengthening our own local economy down the road,” Athies says.

“Food baskets also provide an opportunity to try fresh and varied produce which contributes to the health and wellness of the people receiving them. Local food brings us all together and builds healthy communities," Athies adds.

EcoSociety was able to hire back former markets coordinator Craig Mullin to lead Farms to Friends. His well-established relationship with the farmers and safety protocols were instrumental in getting the program running quickly.

"It's been a pleasure being part of the Farms to Friends program this year. From a farmer's perspective, with all the uncertainties this season around our normal sales channels such as markets and restaurants, it's amazing to have a consistent direct-to-consumer model like this going,” says Robin Mercy, owner of Mr. Mercy’s Mushrooms in Kaslo, one of the farmers participating in Farms to Friends.

“It's also amazing that the produce is going to families around the West Kootenays who I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to connect with. It's a great example of a program supporting people on both ends, and I hope everyone getting my mushrooms is enjoying eating them as much as I enjoy growing them."

Mullin and EcoSociety staff member Matthew Brown pick up the food at the farms and distribute it to volunteers in each community. The volunteers then deliver the food to people and families while following a safe, no contact, protocol.

Farms to Friends will run for 16 weeks this year. The project is made possible withsupport from foundations and local businesses in the West Kootenays and Lower Mainland and RDCK Areas E & F. A full list of sponsors is available on the website. People, businesses and organizations can also sponsor a family if they want to be part of Farms to Friends.

West Kootenay EcoSociety is a non-profit community-driven organization that brings together local residents to protect the natural environment while building just, equitable, healthy, and livable communities in the West Kootenay region.

Photo Caption: Ross Petrie of Glade Organics with some of their produce for Farms to Friends. — Submitted photo