For a guy who regularly gets his hands dirty digging, planting and harvesting, it takes a surprisingly long time to explain just what Aaren Topley does.
Such is Greater Victoria’s food system, an over-complicated system that Topley, and others, are trying to un-complicate with the Good Food Summit, organized by the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives.
The event is a mixing of the best growing minds in town, what CRFair calls the “Good Food Network.” It runs Thursday and Friday, Nov. 22 and 23, with three events on Thursday and a main summit (sold out) on Friday in the Student Union Building at the University of Victoria. Thursday’s events are a pair of tours during the day and the Savoury Stories fundraiser at night. Topley himself hosts the Urban Food Systems tour that starts at 10 a.m. the Compost Education Centre on Chambers Street and visits Vic High, Mason Street Farm, Yates Community Garden and Urban Learning Garden before ending with a speaker’s lunch in the Fort Street Commons.
The other tour is a the Afternoon Action-Bus tour in the Peninsula that starts at 1 p.m. at the Viewfield Food Rescue, then visits Welland Legacy Park and Community Orchard and the Tsartlip Community Teaching Garden.
Savoury Stories, a night of sharing stories, starts 6:45 p.m. at the Vic Theatre.
“The summit is an amazing opportunity for people across the region to share their stories of what they’re doing,” Topley said. “Everyone is so focused on their own work, this gives us a chance to look up and look around and see that we’re all building a movement and network together.”
For the record, Topley is both the Capital Region’s community animator with Farm to School BC (a healthy eating program administered by the Public Health Association of BC and supported by the province and the Provincial Health Services Authority) and is co-chair of Victoria Urban Food Table, which is a food policy council to the City of Victoria.
One day he’s in a board room for meetings, the next he’s helping Vic High students work on their Learning Farm, which officially started in the spring. One thing Topley does is to partner schools, such as Vic High, with local farmers and food growers, such as Jesse Brown from the nearby Mason Street Farm in North Park.
Students from two Vic High classes work on the 5,000 square-foot Vic High farm each week.
The Learning Farm is among the many successes that will be shared at the summit and is one example of the Farm to School initiative Topley is part of.
“We have teachers and food growers excited to teach and to feed children healthy food,” Topley said. “It’s about really engaging children with knowing about the food system.”
Farm to school is the subject for one of the Friday panels at the summit. It’s called “Raising the next generation of food leaders” with practices and stories of student food education.
It will feature Lindsey Boyle from Growing Chefs, Rowan Bezeau, the culinary arts teacher from Royal Bay secondary, and Patrick Gauley Gale, a teacher from Edward Milne secondary.
For more information or to register visit the website crfair.ca/goodfoodsummit.