Back to the land in the 21st century

There is a slowly growing movement back to the land, as more twenty and thirty year-olds move to the country and take up farming. I recently visited Spotted Moose Farm in the hills above Celista, where youthful energies are achieving success using alternative permaculture techniques instead of the traditional tillage system. The owners, Chris Pisesky and Sandy Whitstone, envision far more than just growing food, as they hope to create a school and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
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What will be the jobs of the future?

Will there be fishing jobs like this work during the Adams River salmon run in 2010?

There is a project underway to better understand the local labour market with the goal to bolster employment opportunities in the future. An initiative of Community Futures in cooperation with local First Nation Bands, the Shuswap Labour Market Assessment and Action Plan begins with an Environmental Scan report that uses existing data to provide an analysis of the current employment conditions and future demand.

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Finding solutions to the housing shortage



Frank Bugala addresses the workshop group, photo by Fred Bird

Every year a group of key Shuswap “movers and shakers” come together under the auspices of the group Plan B:E to discuss sustainable options for improving the local economy by linking business, artistic and environmental values. This year the third “Respect Lives Here” workshop was held at the Adams Lake Indian Band’s Pierre’s Point Centre and was hosted by Band Chief Robin Billy.
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Assessing the local impact of increasing inequality

        There is a line-up at this Salvation Army food bank every morning

Recently our local CBC Radio West provided coverage of the new Oxfam report on income inequality that the 85 richest are nearly as wealthy as the poorest half of the world by interviewing two professors whose commentaries were anything but helpful.

                 Inequality in B.C. appears to be the worst in Canada

One, an obvious apologist for the wealthy, claimed inequality was a result of higher share prices for some companies like those that make cell phones and thus was not a big deal and the other professor claimed that while inequality was real, the poor are doing better. Listening to these so-called experts was so irritating it prompted me to do some research and write this column.

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Shuswap’s only tailings dam

With the valuable ore removed, all that is left in the Samatosum mine’s open pit is rusty, acidic water

Given the elevated concerns about mine tailings after the Mt. Polley disaster, I recently took advantage of the opportunity for a tour of the Samatosum Mine reclamation site near Adams Lake. The open pit silver, lead, zinc and copper mine was in operation for just three years beginning in 1989 and produced some 566,000 tons of ore along with 9-million tons of waste rock and 542,000 tons of tailings. Despite its small footprint of just 189 hectares, the reclamation efforts took many years and resulted in the need for a water treatment plant that may be required to remain in operation forever.

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A strategy to improve Shuswap food security

Agriculture has long been part of the Shuswap’s heritage, one of Silver Creek’s many old farmhouses

Local supermarket shelves overflow with food, but given the projected impacts of climate change this may not be the case in the future unless more efforts are made to improve food security in the Shuswap. As droughts intensify south of the border, local farmers in conjunction with local government have developed a plan to address the growing need to improve and expand the Shuswap agricultural sector and to the south in the North Okanagan, another plan is being formulated.
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High school woodlot forestry program a success

There are just two high schools in British Columbia that manage their own woodlot and one of them is in the Shuswap. Charles Bloom Secondary in Lumby has run a forestry trade program since the 1970s and it was vastly improved in 2002 with the acquisition of a 600-hectare woodlot in the Trinity Valley. Every year, 16 grade 11 and 12 students are chosen from five high schools in the Vernon School District to participate in this outdoor, hands-on forestry skills program that runs from September to January.

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More creative economic development ideas

The multiple economic benefits that could be achieved by paying better attention to changing demographics was the focus of the last column and this strategy has been at the center of University of Toronto economics professor David Foot’s work. His series of books, “Boom, Bust and Echo,” demonstrate the power of demographics to help understand the past and predict the future. In a 2008 article, Foot explained how small towns will benefit as many Boomers will seek a slower paced life upon retirement where they can enjoy nature, culture and a lower cost lifestyle.

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An economic development plan for Salmon Arm

Graphs courtesy of Footwork Consulting (David Foot)

There is no doubt that a great deal of effort went into producing the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society’s (SAEDS) 5-year Economic Development Plan. However the plan misses some key opportunities that mesh with one of the main drivers of our local economy. The consultants that prepared the plan, Miller, Dickenson and Blais, reviewed data, interviewed local businesses and held planning sessions with city staff and politicians. The resulting plan does provide a blueprint for many key actions that would help to boost our local economy.
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Canada’s growing democratic deficit

Our democracy is going down the tube in Canada as best evidenced by the fact that the polls show two thirds of Canadians are progressive, yet we are now being ruled with an iron fist by the Conservatives who likely stole the election in part through the use of robo-calls. Our elected representatives do not represent their constituents, but rather vote along party lines, as do the non-elected senators.

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