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“We can’t re-build broken environmental ecologies until we rebuild broken social ecologies”

 

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Organic farmer, photographer, fundraiser, project coordinator, and teacher; Sara Dent is one innovative and busy community builder. As she works on a “beautiful blend” of her life’s passions, Dent is engaging young people and helping to secure the future of our social and ecological resources. 

 Dent has been dedicating her time to community engagement initiatives for years. While studying at Concordia University, she organized orientation events, cultural fairs and concerts for her fellow classmates. After graduating and returning to Vancouver, she continued to throw her support behind social and cultural initiatives such as the New Forms Festival and Judith Marcuse Projects.

It was the summer of 2005, while volunteering on rural farms, that Dent realized she was passionate about growing and harvesting food. In 2007 she volunteered at Power of Hope’s youth camp at Linnaea Farm, and discovered that community engagement could go hand in hand with the arts and farming. Soon after, she enrolled in the Linnaea Farm Ecological Garden Programme to learn about small-scale organic farm-management and permaculture design.

Armed with passion, and a diversity of knowledge and experience, in 2011 Dent started working on Young Agrarians, a community-building project that aims to re-shape and re-build our food system in an ecologically sustainable way. In partnership with FarmFolk CityFolk, Young Agrarians connects young people (34 and under) with events, programs, resources and each other.

“Young Agrarians isn’t trying to re-create the wheel,” Dent explains. “We’re here to network up the wheels that are already turning, and hopefully make farming more accessible;” through events like Potlucks, social media, and very soon, the launch of an online interactive resource map and land access guide.

The project is also about getting people excited, which Dent is doing with photo-documentation. “I’m trying to show people the work that’s happening locally and globally, so they can get inspired and engage this type of work on the ground”.

With more than 50% of B.C. farmers aged 59 and up, less than 5% 34 and younger, and the vast majority of Canadian agriculture being produced on large-scale conventional farms, Dent considers the work she’s doing with Young Agrarians to be very important. “We’re looking at a crisis - not only in terms of the next generation taking up the hard work of farming, but in ecology,” she explains. “The food that’s being produced, the way the land’s being managed, the contamination that’s happening to the land… we’re having huge impact on the ecosphere, and we need to learn how to go back to ecological land management practices.”

And the best way to start doing that, according to Dent, is by engaging our communities. “We can’t re-build broken environmental ecologies until we rebuild broken social ecologies” – a philosophy that’s deeply engrained in the mandate and activities of the Young Agrarians project. “We have to learn how to work together in communities and collaborate so that we can do the good work of healing the land and feeding our population in an ecologically sustainable way.”

Author Jackie Pichette is the Research and Communications Officer at SFU Public Square

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