Construction begins on The Root

Farmland Trust facility will be a hub for local food community

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The Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust food sustainability building is beginning to take root.

The aptly named facility, The Root, grew out of the Salt Spring Island Area Farm Plan, which highlighted the need for a community food economy. The plan included the construction of facilities that support agricultural development on the island.

Patricia Reichert, the president of the Farmland Trust, said “It’s been a long time in the planning… so it’s really lovely to see it come up out of the ground.”

The new building will be a food community centre for the island. Once complete, it will be dedicated to food sustainability and permaculture on Salt Spring with a focus on local food. The building will have facilities for food production, storage, processing, distribution and education. Permaculture practices are also being factored into the construction, with renewable energy systems, water catchment and electric vehicle charging stations on site, according to a Farmland Trust press release. The Trust is also looking to work with the post-education system in B.C. to provide a chef training program.

Reichert said that the project is “all about taking a really complete and coordinated approach in the community to increase food production and food sustainability and resilience on the island while building community all around local food. This is a very significant piece of that because it is going to provide a facility where we can do things that we could never have done on the island.”

According to the press release, eight per cent of the produce available on Salt Spring is grown on the island. The Trust would like to see that number reach 25 per cent by 2025, which makes buildings like The Root necessary.

“It ties us in to really building a food system across the region,” Reichert said. “We’re really part of such a huge industrial food system, and to have concrete things that we can do that are an alternative to that industrial corporate model of producing and distributing food is really really important.”

Renovations to existing structures have already begun on the Beddis Road site. The trust has renovated an existing barn and has been operating a community seed bank with the Salt Spring Seed Sanctuary Society. No deadline has been set on the construction, but things are moving quickly, Reichert explained.

A large portion of the project was funded through last year’s $100,000 Shaw Family grant from the Salt Spring Island Foundation.

“We were dumbstruck because it was such an important thing for the foundation to say that what we’re doing really matters in this community,” Reichert said. “That validation from an organization as important as the foundation is just great.”

The Farmland Trust is still looking to fundraise $560,000. To do so, the members are asking those interested to host a Gathering Place Dinner to help raise money for the project. Dinners will feature locally sourced ingredients and each guest will be invited to bring a donation for the trust. Those interested in hosting a dinner or donating to the project are asked to visit the Farmland Trust’s website at ssifarmlandtrust.org.

For more on this story, see the July 18, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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