On a piece of forested land near Bannock Point, three kilometres south of Silverton, a forestry experiment will see food crops grown among the trees.
Bannock in Bloom is the new site of an agroforestry project announced in January by Kalesnikoff Lumber Company’s Gerald Cordeiro for a forest previously announced just above the cemetery in Nelson. But grizzly bears tend to wander through that area in the spring, and Cordeiro heard public concern about increasing human-bear interactions.
The new location, 2.5 hectares of Crown land between the Bannock Point recreation site and Highway 6, is within the forest tenure of the Slocan Integral Forestry Collective (SIFCo), which will collaborate with Kalesnikoff in the project.
SIFCo’s Tom Bradley says the site has good soil and terrain, is relatively flat, and potential wildfire fuel has recently been thinned and pruned.
“It’s a good place for an innovative trial,” he says. “It’s not in anybody’s direct backyard or above their water intake. It’s very peaceful, quiet, and … very accessible, so communities who are interested, they can pop down and have a look.”
What visitors would see these days is Gregoire Lamoureux of Kootenay Permaculture teaching four young people from Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps how to analyze the current forest and create a plan for the project.
The climate corps is a federal government funded program that responds to climate change through employment and training for young people.
Permaculture means cultivation that mimics natural ecosystems and creates a habitat that regenerates itself. In the case of Bannock in Bloom, permaculture principles will be applied to integrating cultivated crops into a natural ecosystem.
Lamoureux says the project will maintain the forest ecosystem and introduce perennial crops such as berries, herbs, and medicinal plants.
The four young people in the climate corps are helping Lamoureux map and analyze the species currently growing at the site, and learning to analyze the patterns of direct sunlight. They are also working with Lamoureux to plan what might be planted next spring, learning how to create biochar (a type of charcoal used as a soil nutrient), and building a fence around the land.
“The permaculture approach is not to clear the land and plant whatever you want,” Lamoureux says, but (work with) what is already there that we want to conserve.”
In addition to food plants, the plantings could include deciduous trees, which are less vulnerable to fire than conifers.
“There are many goals with that site, and wildfire mitigation is one big piece of it,” Lamoureux says.
Another goal is to create a forest and agriculture ecosystem that would require little maintenance.
“The goal is to back away as humans,” says Bradley, “and let it be a forested patch with some interesting species additions.”
The project could expand what is usually understood to be the job of a Crown land tenure holder, which is to extract timber.
“We can hit a bunch of objectives related to forestry, wildfire, tenure reform, the potential to involve Indigenous communities and their traditional knowledge,” Cordeiro says. “Employment, local food security — there’s there’s a lot of boxes you can tick.
“We’d like to see this eventually recognized as a legitimate form of tenure and use of Crown land.”