Four Remarkable Women  

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Organic farming on Southern Vancouver Island owes a great debt to four remarkable women: Mary Alice Johnson, Tina Fraser Baynes, Marti Martin-wood and Rebecca Jehn.

Today - in honour of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day - it is my pleasure to re-release a documentary about their early efforts.

It was directed and filmed in 1995 by Helen Rezanowich of the Media Network Society. I know that it inspired a number of women to begin farming… including myself!

The film captures the challenges that women face if they want to farm. But it is also about the joy and value that comes from growing food for yourself and others. I know many women farming today will relate to the feelings and ideas expressed in this film.

Many of the projects these women helped start – such as Moss Street Market – remain vibrant and successful to this day. I’m also very happy to report that all four women are still actively farming.  

Mary-Alice Johnson, for example, has transformed land in Sooke into a highly-productive and successful farm, ALM Farm. She and her business partner Marika Nagasaki grow a full range of vegetables, including fifty types of heritage tomatoes, and coveted salad greens. They also have poultry and pigs, run a busy seed company (Full Circle Seeds) and protect wild natural spaces on the edge of the farm. The whole operation is certified organic, employs several people and grosses over $100 000 a year!

Tina Fraser Baynes also continues to farm organically at Corner Farm in North Saanich. She has a busy farm-gate stand, and has helped start the North Saanich Farm Market. She also teaches a popular course at Camosun College about how to start a farm.

Marti Martin-Wood runs Two Wings Farm in Metchosin with her husband Bernie. Their seed company was founded in 2000 and continues to provide high-quality, certified organic and open-pollinated seeds.

Rebecca Jehn operates Rebecca’s Garden, a certified organic market garden in Saanich. She is also well known for her preserves and seeds. She continues to hold workshops on seed saving, plant propagation, harvesting and marketing produce, as well as canning and preserving the harvest.

I asked Mary Alice if she had a word of advice for young women considering farming. Her answer? “Well, I worry about people being too idealistic about it. It is very hard work. But it can be done – there is a huge demand for local and organic. People will thank you and value your efforts. It’s an extremely rewarding way to make a living.”

I hope you will enjoy this video and join me in celebrating four remarkable farmers for this year’s International Women’s Day.



BC Farmworkers deserve better  

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Four years ago today a transport van carrying farm workers crashed on the highway near Abbotsford, injuring fourteen people and killing three women: Sarabjit Kaur Sidhu, Sukhwinder Kaur Punia, and Amarjit Kaur Bal.

A wooden bench without seatbelts was being used in place of seats, the vehicle was in poor repair, and was carrying 17 people, more than it could safely hold.

A 2009 coroner’s inquest made 18 recommendations but the government has failed to act on some of the most important ones, including improvements to road-side and on-site vehicle inspections.

As the Opposition Critic for Agriculture, I will continue to speak out about this tragedy until the government does more to ensure farmworker safety and restore employment rights for B.C. farmworkers.

I’d like to thank my colleagues New Democrat interim leader Dawn Black and labour critic Raj Chouhan for joining the deceased women’s families at a candlelight vigil in Abbotsford last night.

As Ms. Black said: “It’s time for [the BC Liberals] to stop treating farmworkers like second-class citizens. And it’s time to restore full rights to them under B.C.’s Employment Standards Act.”

And I echo Mr. Chouhan’s words as well: “Ms. Clark has said she’ll put B.C.’s families first. If she means what she’s promised, she must act for farmworkers and their families today.”

You can read more about the vigil here:

http://www.theprovince.com/news/Five+years+after+farm+workers+Abbotsford+crash+coroner+recommendations/4393227/story.html