New event highlights farming on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands

Cowichan Exhibition Park will host the first annual Islands Agriculture Show Feb. 3 and 4.

Farmers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands have always faced a unique set of challenges and opportunities due to the region’s distinct geographic separation from the rest of British Columbia.

That’s why organizers of the inaugural Islands Agriculture Show (IAS) aim to address the needs of the region’s farm community from a uniquely island perspective.

“Agriculture has traditionally been seen as a small economic sector on Vancouver Island,” Kathy Lachman of Economic Development Cowichan, one of the lead organizations behind the IAS, says in a press release. “We believe farmers here have the potential to play a pivotal role in Vancouver Island’s food self sufficiency, as well as provide products to the Canadian and global marketplace, and this show will be one of the steps forward in this direction.”

The first annual IAS takes place Fri., Feb. 3 and Sat., Feb. 4 at the Cowichan Exhibition Park in Duncan. Co-presented by Top Shelf Feeds and Farm Credit Canada, the event features a tradeshow and a full slate of conference sessions split over two days.

“The event will really showcase all that Vancouver Island has to offer by raising the profile of Islands’ agriculture on the provincial and federal stage and building pride in the sector for consumers and farmers,” explains Lachman.

While the tradeshow opens at 8:30 a.m. on both days, the inaugural show officially kicks off Friday at 9 a.m. with an opening address by Agriculture Minister Don McRae.

Appropriately, the conference program reflects both the scale and diversity of farm operations on the Island with a total of 16 topics falling under four general themes: farm business management, production, small farm development, and government/industry programs.

“I would like to think our program has something for both the large and small farmer, new and experienced, as well as different commodities,” notes Jill Hatfield, regional agrologist with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and a member of the program planning committee.

The speaker program runs from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. With two concurrent sessions occurring throughout both days, producers can customize a program to suit their needs.

Complementing the conference program will be a tradeshow with more than 60 booths. Tradeshow co-ordinator Shari Paterson notes the response to the tradeshow has been very positive and promises an excellent mix of exhibitors.

“Every exhibitor that I have spoken with personally is very excited that we are able to bring this type of show to Vancouver Island,” said Paterson. “It will be a win-win situation for the Island farmers and the industry.”

Daily admission to the IAS is $5 at the door. The pre-registration cost for the conference program is $45 per day, or $80 for both days. Parking at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds is free.

For registration information and further details, click here.