A new non-profit society has been created with the goal of furthering agricultural development in the Lillooet area and increasing the sector's funding opportunities. The Lillooet Agricultural and Food Society (LAFS) was formed in late 2015 by Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's (SLRD) Area B, the District of Lillooet and a St'át'imc working group to help implement its Agricultural Plan, the culmination of a year of public dialogue around the future of agriculture in the area.
"Supporting the growth of agriculture is an essential piece of our economic development strategy, and helping to get this new organization off the ground is an important step," said Mickey Macri, director of SLRD Electoral Area B, in a release. "I hope people from around Area B, Lillooet and the northern St'át'imc communities feel inspired to get involved so they can play a direct role in revitalizing the agriculture sector in our region."
The hope, according to Sam Quinlan, the SLRD Area B Agricultural Advisory Committee chair, is that the group will serve as "a cohesive voice for local farmers and ranchers," as well as those "linked into the food system at other levels, including processors, cooperatives, and vendors of products grown out of this region's incredibly productive soils and surrounding landscape.
"We have so much to be proud of here — now it's just a matter of working more closely to strengthen our agricultural economy and support the talented people who are already working hard to maintain and grow the agricultural base for the Lillooet area," Quinlan continued.
The LAFS is currently seeking a part-time executive director as well as four others who will join Tristan Banwell, Dylan Foss, and Mandi Rogers on the inaugural board of directors. Nominations, which can be forwarded to Banwell at firstname.lastname@example.org, will remain open until the positions are filled.
Lillooet Grown, a business that aligns with the mandate at the LAFS, was launched in August as a way to connect food producers directly with consumers, effectively removing the barriers of aggregations, distribution and marketing farmers often face. Banwell and his wife Aubyn, owner-operators of Spray Creek Ranch, along with their long-time friend and entrepreneur, Katrina Ferrari, devised the food hub concept. So far there are four area farms participating in the program.
Now in the implementation phase, the Agricultural Plan's recommended priorities include: enhancing the agricultural market viability of the region; supporting sustainable farming practices; fostering collaboration between the St'at'imc and the farming community; and promoting awareness and education.
For more information on the plan, visit www.slrd.bc.ca.