Con­ser­va­tion project aims at food sus­tain­abil­ity

Times Colonist - - Islander - — Pe­dro Arrais

The Galiano Con­ser­vancy As­so­ci­a­tion is about to plant a food and medic­i­nal for­est with the hope that mem­bers can har­vest both food and knowl­edge from the project.

Some of the seed money for the project, the Galiano Com­mu­nity Food For­est, comes from the Vic­to­ria Foun­da­tion.

The project ad­dresses a press­ing need for greater food se­cu­rity and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity — and could in­spire an al­ter­na­tive to con­ven­tional agriculture, ac­cord­ing to Eric Ja­cob­sen, ed­u­ca­tion co-or­di­na­tor for the non­profit so­ci­ety.

The project sees the creation of a per­ma­cul­ture food and medic­i­nal for­est on a plot of land on the as­so­ci­a­tion’s 76-hectare prop­erty. The for­est will be lo­cally adapted and sus­tain­able, and, when ma­ture, minimize in­puts of labour, wa­ter and nu­tri­ents re­quired to pro­duce nu­tri­ent-dense food.

“It is a con­ser­va­tion project not just about pro­tect­ing the ecosys­tem, but ad­dresses food sus­tain­abil­ity on a re­gional level,” said Ja­cob­sen.

For­est gar­dens are not new, with ev­i­dence of hu­man agricul- tu­ral ac­tiv­ity in the Ama­zon rain­for­est dat­ing back hun­dreds of years.

Un­like con­ven­tional agri­cul­tural mod­els, with only one crop in vast fields, the for­est gar­den fea­tures a mul­ti­tude of plants cho­sen to both sup­port one another and to cre­ate a mi­cro­cli­mate. “We are hop­ing to cre­ate a multi-level gar­den that is re­sis­tant to cli­mate change,” said Ja­cob­sen.

Mem­bers of the con­ser­vancy will also bury logs to act as large car­bon sinks as they rot. The de­com­pos­ing wood be­comes more por­ous, serv­ing as reser­voirs for mois­ture in the dry months. The mois­ture is needed, as the project in­cludes seed­ing the for­est floor with mush­rooms and other ben­e­fi­cial fungi.

Rot­ting veg­e­ta­tion and leaves will be tilled back into the ground to serve as nat­u­ral nu­tri­ents for the be­low-ground root net­works.

Other plants planned in­clude dif­fer­ent types of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and vines grow­ing on trees.

“We want to be the fa­cil­i­ta­tors for change,” said Ja­cob­sen.

“The plan is to make avail­able what we learn, so peo­ple can repli­cate the model from small gar­dens to mul­ti­ple acres.”

The demon­stra­tion gar­den, lo­cated un­der a cliff at the as­so­ci­a­tion’s Learn­ing Cen­tre, will op­er­ate as a so­cial en­ter­prise and be a liv­ing model, pro­vid­ing an im­por­tant hands-on ed­u­ca­tional re­source for the com­mu­nity and re­gion.

Formed in 1989, the Galiano Con­ser­vancy As­so­ci­a­tion was one of the first land trusts formed in Bri­tish Columbia. It is a com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tion with a mis­sion to pre­serve, pro­tect and en­hance the qual­ity of hu­man and ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment on Galiano Is­land.

The as­so­ci­a­tion is pre­sent­ing a two-day Per­ma­cul­ture Food For­est Work­shop, Oct. 24 and 25 at the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Learn­ing Cen­tre, 2540 Stur­dies Bay Rd., Galiano Is­land.

Lili Paulin-Kuroda, 11, checks out what’s grow­ing at the Galiano Com­mu­nity Food For­est.

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