Wayne pays tribute to Kootenay–Columbia's local food system

On May 1st, MP Wayne Stetski paid tribute to the many dedicated individuals, businesses and organizations that contribute to the local food system in Kootenay–Columbia. 

During his opening speech for the first hour of debate on his Private Member's Bill C-281, An Act to establish a National Local Food Day, Stetski included the following:

"Mr. Speaker, British Columbians are proud of our local food systems – from farmers and ranchers, to fishers and hunters, to wine makers and craft brewers, to artisans and restauranteurs...

The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets represents more than 145 markets across the province...In Kootenay–Columbia, we are home to many Farmers’ Markets spread throughout the riding: in Cranbrook and Creston, Nelson and Revelstoke, Salmo and Kaslo, Invermere and Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford, Golden and Baynes Lake.

Over the past two years, I have visited almost every one of these markets, and am always struck by the passion our local producers and artisans have for the work that they do – and, of course, by how delicious the food is!

From the dairy farms and orchards of Creston, to the Cattle Company Steak House in Fernie, to delicious coffee and craft beer everywhere – we really are spoiled! 

Mr. Speaker, my Instagram feed is full of pictures from my riding of people who got out and enjoyed the sunny spring weather that has finally come to our great nation. 

That sunny weather has me thinking about Creston Valley asparagus. I am looking forward to our next break week so I can stop by Sutcliffe Farms and watch the asparagus grow. When the weather is hot in the spring, Creston Valley Asparagus can grow up to an inch an hour.

Mr. Speaker, I know when I speak of my riding, I often reference the snow-capped peaks of the Selkirk, Purcell and Rocky Mountains, and speak of our world class skiing and golfing, so you may be surprised to learn that the Creston Valley grows virtually every variety of vegetable, wine grapes, peaches – and even some citrus fruit. 

The Creston Valley is also home to Tabletree Juice – whose Black Cherry Juice was recognized as the world’s best pure juice product at the World Juice Awards in 2012.  

Mr. Speaker I am not sure if you are old enough to remember a time when milk came in glass bottles? Well, thanks to Kootenay Meadow Dairies, it still does in much of the Kootenays. The Harris family dairy farm produces fresh, organic milk, that is delivered in reusable glass containers. 

Remember those wine grapes I just mentioned? For an amazing Kootenay-Columbia local pairing, try a vintage from Skimmerhorn Winery, or Wynwood Cellars, or Baille Grohman Estate Winery, with any of Kootenay Meadows organic hard cheeses.

The Bunshue Ranch in Salmo is best known as the host location of the world-renowned Shambala electronic music festival, but West Kootenay residents also know it as the source of delicious pork, turkey and beef. These local meat products are the basis for most of the meals served at the Farm Fresh Café at the Savoy Hotel in Nelson.

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to say “Café” and “Nelson” in the same sentence without conjuring images of the beautiful Oso Negro Café – where people happily line up out the door to socialize, do business and drink some of the best locally-roasted coffee anywhere.

I say some of the best because Kootenay-Columbia is home to more than a dozen coffee roasters including: Kootenay Roasting Company in Cranbrook, Stoke Roasted Coffee in Revelstoke, Steam Donkey Coffee in Kimberley, Kaslo Bean Roasting in Kaslo, Zaltana Coffee Roasters in the Elk Valley, Rooftop Coffee Roasters in Fernie, Kootenay Coffee Company in Nelson, Bean Bag Coffee Roasters in Golden, Beanpod Chocolate Gelato and Coffee in Fernie, Stolen Church Coffee Company in Invermere, and of course Kicking Horse Coffee.

Kicking Horse Coffee is one of the largest employers in the town of Invermere. Its products are available across North America and its annual sales are in the tens of millions of dollars.  

I had the pleasure of sharing a lunch with Kicking Horse’s CEO Elana Rosenfeld a few months ago. Elana is one of those bosses that goes to work every day with a smile on her face because she is passionate about her product, cares deeply about her employees, and is committed to the culture and community that helped shape her. 

Kicking Horse has three times been named a Top-15 Best Workplace in Canada by the global research firm Great Place to Work. This year, Kicking Horse earned the top spot as 2018’s Best Workplace in Canada for businesses with 100-1000 employees – and was also recognized as a Best Workplace for Women and a Best Workplace for Inclusion.

Mr. Speaker, you can buy Kicking Horse’s delicious fair-trade and organic coffee at grocery stores across the country – including right here in Ottawa. I highly recommend that my colleagues pick up a bag.

Just down the highway from Kicking Horse Coffee is Hopkins Harvest in Windermere – a business started out of the back of a truck by Fred and Shelley Hopkins in 1995. It has since grown to what I would describe as one of the world’s best roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Now in a year-round market building, customers can pick up freshly smoked wings or amazing pepperoni in addition to produce sourced from local and regional growers.

These days, Fred and Shelley’s daughter Kerstan and her partner Matthew Larsen have expanded the business to include “The Hot Spot” – where customers can order delicious Artisan pizza, baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with locally-produced ingredients – a great complement to local craft beer from Invermere’s Arrowhead Brewing CompanyAnd they have gone green with their energy consumption – the roof of their store is covered in solar panels!

Speaking of craft beer, Mr. Speaker – in Kootenay-Columbia, like most of BC, we are spoiled when it comes to beer crafted specifically for local tastes. Torchlight, Backroads, Nelson, Fisher Peak, Over Time, Fernie, Whitetooth, Angry Hen – all are local breweries, serving local restaurants and supporting local families. 

Craft liquor is also a growing industry, led by producers like Bohemian Spirits in Kimberley, and Pommier Ranch Meadery from Premier Lake.

Mr. Speaker, I know I am making some members hungry and thirsty so I will move on, but before I do, I also want give a quick shout out to the 2017 Canadian Craft Brewery of the Year– Mt. Begbie Brewing in Revelstoke founded by Bart and Tracey Larson. 

Bart has a PhD in nuclear physics, but – as he says – “he prefers to make beer, not war, in Revelstoke”. I hope he continues to do so for many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that along with connecting Canadians to those that grow and produce their food, our local food systems make important social contributions to our communities. 

In my riding, the Revelstoke Farmers’ Market has partnered with Community Revelstoke Connections on a Food Recovery Program that has diverted tens of thousands of pounds of food out of the landfill – and into the hands of the community’s vulnerable citizens.

Earlier this month, the Cranbrook Farmers’ Market was honoured as Non-Profit of the Year by the local Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards.

The Cranbrook Food Action Committee is a coalition of committed individuals and local organizations. Their work over the last 14 years has included: organizing community kitchens, community food mapping, hosting community education events and workshops, laying the groundwork for the formation of the Cranbrook Farmers’ Market, and creating the Public Produce Garden at Eric MacKinnon Park, where everyone is welcome to seed, weed and harvest food.

The Golden Food Bank serves more than 100 families every month – including through a Food Bank Garden where volunteers grow fresh, local produce for the Food Bank’s clients. They have also participated in local school breakfast and food recovery programs.

On Saturday May 12th, the Golden Food Bank is hosting a “Fill a Raft Food Drive and BBQ”, where community members will help the food bank fill a whitewater raft with food donations. Participants will be entered to win a rafting trip for 2 with Glacier Rafting Company. This is a wonderful example of a local community coming together to support a local food system that works for everyone.

Creston and District’s Fields Forward initiative is a partnership working to support local food and farming in communities from Yahk to Yaqan Nukiy to Riondel. Fields Forward’s mission is to foster “a vibrant, productive local agri-food system that builds genuine community wealth by supporting and sustaining the community’s environmental, indigenous, social, cultural, economic and aesthetic values”.

This collaborative network – made up of more than 80 producers, organizations, businesses and local government – is currently piloting an important Food Venture Collaborative, which will bring private, public and community partners together to identify emerging market opportunities, and to address shared agri-food infrastructure needs. Their mobile fruit and vegetable press project has been estimated to contribute almost $775,000 per year to the local economy.

The Conference Board of Canada has said: “Local food can be a way for businesses to illustrate their commitment to local communities and farmers”.

Across this country, restaurants and food festivals have made this kind of commitment to local producers and communities by putting the focus on locally-grown and locally-produced products – and their success continues to grow.

In my riding, the West Kootenay EcoSociety promotes sustainable food systems through the Nelson Garden Festival, and a number of community market events, including Nelson MarketFest. This annual two-night event turns downtown Baker Street into a lively night market, featuring live music and dozens of vendors, including many fresh local food products.

In Revelstoke, the Local Food Initiative Society hosts a variety of community events and education programs, including the “Incredible Edible Film Fest”, seed sales, local food dinners, youth food camp and others, drawing attention and bringing fresh perspective to a variety of food issues.

These are just a few examples of what it can look like when communities come together to support local food systems."