By Chad Feehan
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
via The Shoreline News — 11/9/23
A CBS beekeeping and homesteading group has been tapped to participate in a province-wide experiment to make the island more self-sufficient when it comes to producing food.
Led by the Food Producers Forum, a non-profit group that shares information and provides services to local producers, the newly created Provincial Food Hub Network aims to build a network of new food production and distribution within the province. The provincial government is putting $50,000 toward the project, which will involve 13 farms and homesteads across the province.
Avalon Homesteading of CBS is one of only two participants in the scheme located on the Avalon Peninsula. The other is in St. John’s.
Avalon Homesteading was founded by Colin Stavnes and his business partner Noel Grandy in 2022, and have been running classes on homesteading, including bee-keeping for a while now. They hope their inclusion in this new program will enable them to expand their operations and reach. Stavnes notes people who take his class can share that information in their own communities.
“I know there are so many people out there who want to learn, and I’m having trouble reaching them,” Stavnes said. “So that’s where I think the biggest benefit will come from.”
Stavnes met the project’s coordinator, Dan Rubin, at an event held at the MUN Botanical Gardens.
They got to talking and soon realized that Stavnes’ and Grandy’s operation was directly in line with Rubin’s vision for the project.
“We were already doing what he envisioned these locations would do to be a hub for the community where people can buy local produce, learn how to garden, and grow a healthy and sustainable garden,” Stavnes said.
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Mitacs, and the Canadian Red Cross are also funding the project.
Rubin said acquisition of land is difficult in the province, which made supporting people who are already producing food in the community a logical choice.
“We’re going to create a food network at the community level and get it effectively shared to everybody that needs it, and we have 13 places to start and the network can grow from there.” he said.
Food Producers Forum ran a survey of farmers, hunters, fishers, and foragers, and discovered that the participants produced over two million pounds of food last year.
“We’re actually a lot closer to food security than we think, the problem is that nobody knew that until we did the survey,” Rubin said. “The capacity is already in local communities to produce healthy, local food but there needs to be support for that.”
Stavnes says a hands-on approach to learning is the only way to pass on useful knowledge of sustainable food production.
“I don’t want to just put them in a classroom and talk to them. I want to take them out, hands on, and show them what to do… have them help to build systems,” he said.
The project is in its early stages, with much work to be done to bring it into fruition.
Both Rubin and Stavnes are of one mind about the importance of community when it comes to food security and producing local food.
“We have some funding, but more importantly than that we have this whole network of people with practical experience and knowledge,” Rubin said.
“If we plug in the people who know, then amazing things can happen. That’s what guides me in this work.”