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OBAC turns to agriculture

The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition announced funding for a number of projects at UNBC last week. Bill McGill, front left, a professor in the Ecosystem Science and Management department, received funding to continue work on allowing students to attain Professional Agrologist standing, while students Serena Black, Amy Blanding and Thea Zuiker received funds for agricultural research projects. OBAC chair Stephanie Killem, back left, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell, and instructors Scott Green and David Cornell were on hand for the announcement.  - Allan WISHART/Free Press
The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition announced funding for a number of projects at UNBC last week. Bill McGill, front left, a professor in the Ecosystem Science and Management department, received funding to continue work on allowing students to attain Professional Agrologist standing, while students Serena Black, Amy Blanding and Thea Zuiker received funds for agricultural research projects. OBAC chair Stephanie Killem, back left, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell, and instructors Scott Green and David Cornell were on hand for the announcement.
— image credit: Allan WISHART/Free Press

The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) is getting back to the roots. – specifically, agricultural roots.

As part of the Northern Agriculture Research Initiative (NARI), OBAC has joined with local schools, government agencies and local stakeholders to improve the capacity and profitability of the agriculture and agri-food sector of the North.

With that in mind, OBAC announced Friday it was funding three research projects by graduate students at the University of Northern B.C. as well as continuing work on allowing students to get their Professional Agrologist designation.

Bill McGill, an instructor at UNBC and a professional agrologist, said work on the designation has proceeded fairly quickly.

“OBAC asked me to participate with them in working on the program. I met last summer with Art Kaehn (Regional District of Fraser Fort George), Don Basserman (former city councillor) and Sharon Tower (OBAC executive director). We met at Don’s office, which happens to be the White Spot.”

They agreed there was a need for the designation to be available, but found declining numbers of students enrolling in agrology-related courses across North America could make it difficult.

“We saw an opportunity to streamline the process with the BC Institute of Agrologists (BCIA). UNBC is a very interdisciplinary school, and we worked out a schedule with the BCIA for what courses would be needed to attain the designation.”

They went through the list of courses already offered at UNBC and sent suggestions to he BCIA.

“The credentials committee reviewed the list and has designated 69 courses at UNBC which can be used for credit towards the Professional Agrologist designation.”

Research

With one agricultural research project already underway, NARI will provide funding for three projects this year.

Serena Black will continue her project of Enhancing Northern Grain Production Through Applied Research and Community Engagement.

“We have found in the first year of the project that it’s important to build connections to the local producers. Agriculture has a very strong historic importance to the region, and Phase 2 of the project will work more on what producers need.”

A workshop next month will, she says, unofficially mark the end of Phase 1 and the start of Phase 2.

Food production has economic, ecological and cultural significance to people in the  Robson Valley, and Thea Zuiker wants to focus on the place of food in the system.

“There is a need to diversify and strengthen the ‘wild food’ system in the Robson Valley, and there is increased interest in producing ‘wild foods’.”

Connecting the past of food production in the Regional District to the needs of the future is the focus of Amy Blanding’s project.

“We want to create a Story of Place for the RDFFG through the lens of food. We want to look at the capacity of the region to sustain food systems, and, perhaps more importantly, ask ‘What does the community want in food planning?’”

 

 

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