Garden enthusiasts, and families looking for an inexpensive way to entertain the kids, will be happy to hear the first-ever West Coast Farm & Garden Show is taking place on Feb. 27 and 28 at the Tofino Botanical Gardens.
Pioneered by Cindy Hutchison and Leah Austin from the Tofino Community Food Initiative (TCFI), the weekend event is jammed pack with fun activities for the whole family, plus free childminding with Tofino Nature Kids for parents who want to attend a workshop or graze the co-operative market unbridled.
“People are hungry for this. They want to know about local food, they want to know about gardening. It’s so big right now,” said Austin.
“Gardening has become kind of a trend,” said Hutchison. “It’s become the flannel of the world.”
Kicking off the weekend on Friday evening at Darwin’s Cafe is the book launch of Cedar, Salmon and Weed written by Louis Druehl from Canadian Kelp Resources.
Druehl also headlines the weekend’s educational lineup with a Saturday workshop focusing on the uses and potential of kelp. Other draws include long-term planning in the garden, beekeeping with local beekeepers and composting with Louise Rodgers from Tofino Urban Farms.
“You can purchase a weekend workshop package for $20 and that basically gives you access to everything. Or we’re doing a suggested donation of $5 for workshops,” Hutchison said adding that anyone interested can buy advanced workshop tickets at picatic.com or simply show up on the day of the event.
Saturday night will be the Meet Your Maker Grazing Fundraiser for the TCFI, which involves bringing together local producers from the Alberni Valley with Tofino’s culinary talent.
“To start the evening off we’re going to do a wine and beer tasting from 6:30 to 7 p.m. with Tofino Brew Co. and Millstone winery out in Nanaimo. Then it’s just going to be kind of a grazing, canapé not really sit down thing. We want people to mingle with the producers that are there,” Hutchison said.
“We’re hoping to really let people have a conversation and maybe spark some networking opportunities to bring food from the ACRD region and Vancouver Island to here.”
For the kids, the big excitement of the weekend will be interacting with the barnyard animals, and that includes pony rides from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re also going to have planting tables set-up so kids can come and plant a pea seed and take it home,” Austin said.
“Because there are so many challenges with farming, the more that we can get the kids interested when they are younger, the better chance of them perhaps pursuing farming in the future. But if they’ve never seen a cow, a horse, a chicken or understand where their food comes from they may never even think that that’s an option for them. It’s a way to introduce children to farming.”
All the money raised throughout the event will go towards helping the TCFI carry on with organizing garden workshops, local food swaps, and edible garden tours.
With the amount of vendors, farmers, and producers arriving from the Alberni-Valley region, Hutchison and Austin are confident the inaugural Farm and Garden show will be a growing success. “With the amount of people coming, it should be a full house,” Hutchison said.
“I know that the farmers in Port Alberni are super supportive and really glad that we are doing this.,” Austin added.
“It’s really never been done. There’s never been something like this before.”