Elk Valley grows local

Even with a green thumb, it can be a challenge to grow food in the cold climate of the Kootenays.

Even with a green thumb, it can be a challenge to grow food in the cold climate of the Kootenays.

Wildsight Elk Valley wants to help, and will be providing the necessary knowledge for ambitious local horticulturalists through their Keeping Food Real project.

The group successfully applied to the B.C. government’s Grow Local Program for $25,000 to fund the two-year initiative, which aims to support the citizens of the Elk Valley in growing their own food.

In April, the Keeping Food Real project will be providing online cold climate educational resources and hands-on practical workshops that support gardeners of every kind.

“The Grow Local program will further strengthen the value of the local agricultural sector among British Columbians,” said Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick in a statement. “This pilot project will create a better understanding of how food crops are produced in our province and assist people in learning how best to grow their own food.”

The Wildsight Elk Valley Branch will be working with the College of the Rockies, Spruce Spring Stream Farms, the District of Sparwood, the Elkford Community Garden and the City of Fernie on the project.

Keeping Food Real development team member Dawn Deydey is passionate about growing local. She’s run the Fernie Mountain Market and started the Wildsight Community EcoGarden, “so I’ve been very involved in local food production in Fernie,” she said.

“How do we, in the Elk Valley, create thriving gardens in this cold climate?” she asked. “A lot of the garden books you get are not for our region so hopefully this [project] will help address that.”

Deydey said there are vegetables that thrive in a cold climate which are easy to grow. Among them are staple foods like peas, kale, potatoes, garlic and onions.

“There’s many, that’s just a start,” said Deydey. “But there are also crops that might need some special techniques to grow and the workshops will be addressing that.”

The Keeping Food Real project is a small part of a province-wide $250,000 Grow Local program, which is funding projects in 10 B.C. communities.

The Grow Local program is itself a small part of the province’s Agrifoods and Seafood Strategic Growth Plan, which has a goal of growing the province’s agrifoods industry to a $15-billion-dollar-a-year sector by 2020.