Matthew Brown packs produce as part of the Farms to Friends program. (Submitted photo)

Farms to Friends brings fresh local food to West Kootenay families

“It is a really fulfilling project for everyone,” says executive director Montana Burgess.

Everyone deserves access to healthy food. That’s the starting point for Farms to Friends, a new program this summer bringing local organic produce to low income families and seniors in the West Kootenay.

Read more: West Kootenay EcoSociety opens office in downtown Trail

Read more: Latest on coronavirus

Food security is one of the pillars of West Kootenay EcoSociety’s work, and the idea and funding for Farms to Friends came together quickly for a project that everyone involved is calling a win-win.

“It is a really fulfilling project for everyone,” says Montana Burgess, West Kootenay EcoSociety executive director.

“We’re working with three local organic farms to bring weekly deliveries of their produce to 54 low income families in the region. The farmers are stoked to be part of this, the families who are receiving the food are so appreciative, and the volunteers who are helping us deliver it are enthusiastic about it,”

“We had an immediate response from organizations in several communities to help us connect with their most vulnerable people who would benefit most from the delivery of healthy, quality produce. That’s the goal of Farms to Friends, connecting the people most in need, especially during COVID-19, with a reliable source of healthy food,” Burgess says.

Breland Athies works at the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society, one of the organizations that helped connect EcoSociety with families to receive the produce.

“Farm fresh food baskets provide an opportunity to connect with and feel supported by other members and organizations in the community, especially in the midst of a pandemic,” she says.

“Food baskets also connect us to local farmers which strengthen those relationships and create awareness of local food supplies. These connections can have a ripple effect of strengthening our own local economy down the road.

“Food baskets also provide an opportunity to try fresh and varied produce which contributes to the health and wellness of the people receiving them. Local food brings us all together and builds healthy communities.”

EcoSociety was able to hire back former markets co-ordinator Craig Mullin to lead Farms to Friends. His well-established relationship with the farmers and safety protocols were instrumental in getting the program running quickly.

“It’s been a pleasure being part of the Farms to Friends program this year. From a farmer’s perspective, with all the uncertainties this season around our normal sales channels such as markets and restaurants, it’s amazing to have a consistent direct-to-consumer model like this going,” says Robin Mercy, owner of Mr. Mercy’s Mushrooms in Kaslo, one of the farmers participating in Farms to Friends.

“It’s also amazing that the produce is going to families around the West Kootenay who I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to connect with. It’s a great example of a program supporting people on both ends, and I hope everyone getting my mushrooms is enjoying eating them as much as I enjoy growing them.”

Mullin and EcoSociety staff member Matthew Brown pick up the food at the farms and distribute it to volunteers in each community. The volunteers then deliver the food to people and families while following a safe, no contact, protocol.

Farms to Friends will run for 16 weeks this year.

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Ross Petrie from Glade Organics is participating in the Farms to Friends program. (Submitted photo)

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