COVID response and recovery plan takes shape

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By COVID-19 Business and Farm Emergency Response and Recovery Task Force

If there is one thing that has become clear in the first weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s the generosity of Salt Springers coming together to help. 

While we are in the middle of a health crisis that is devastating the lives of many, another crisis is unfolding whose impact will be felt for years to come. And that’s the impact of this crisis on Salt Spring’s farms and businesses – many of which have had to completely transform, scale back, or, alas, suspend operations. The early signs of the toll this is taking are coming in, and it’s sad to say that there may well be empty storefronts, studios and fallow fields once this is over.  

In response to this crisis, the volunteer-run COVID-19 Business and Farm Emergency Response and Recovery Task Force took shape in March to support growers, restaurateurs, merchants, artisans and others through an economic crisis the scale of which we have never witnessed – all the while, developing ways to enhance food security and resilience on our island home. 

The task force formed out of recognition that unless we acted quickly, Salt Spring would lose critical economic and agricultural infrastructure that takes years to build, but only months to lose.  

One month in, our united efforts have resulted in the launch of several initiatives, all driven by the need to protect jobs and our island economy. 

Now we are urging our community to come out and support the new Essential Services Tuesday Market, to shop through the market’s new online portal, to get to know our farmers through the weekly profiles developed in partnership with the Driftwood, to spread the word about the new online COVID-19 info hub at opportunitysaltspring.ca with its resources for islanders, and to fully support our upcoming “buy local” campaign.  

The work we’ve been able to do in collaboration with scores of resourceful islanders is testimony to the bootstrap character of a community used to having to figure things out without enough outside help. 

Collectively, our everyday choices will determine how much we can minimize community suffering as a result of this crisis. Instead of buying through Amazon or big box stores online, we can contact our local businesses to find out what they have right now for pick up or delivery. Instead of picking up that head of California romaine, we can choose fresh leafy greens grown by local farmers right here at home. All of our efforts together will make a difference to how our island looks after COVID-19 fades. 

In the weeks to come, we commit to updating our fellow islanders on more new initiatives designed to help our farms and businesses get through this crisis, and to letting you know how you, too, can help enrich and sustain our wonderful community. 

Be well, be safe. 

Members of the task force are: Laura Patrick, Salt Spring Island trustee; Tony Beck, Agricultural Alliance; Anne Macey, Abattoir Society and Island Natural Growers; Jessica Harkema, executive director, Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce; Jeremy Milsom, director, Chamber of Commerce; Rob Pingle, co-ordinator, Salt Spring Community Market Society; Francine Carlin, Salt Spring Community Economic Development Commission chair; Tine Rossing, Task Force food security co-lead; Elizabeth Zook, task force food security co-lead; and Bryan Young, task force communications lead.

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