The Islands Agriculture Show returns to the Cowichan Exhibition on Feb. 12-13.
The event began in 2011 at the Exhibition grounds as a joint initiative of agricultural and economic development organizations from across Vancouver Island to promote agriculture and professional development for farmers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
It has moved to other venues in other communities but seems to be finding a real home in the Cowichan Valley.
“You truly can’t find another location like this on the Island,” Shari Paterson, the show’s coordinator said.“But the mandate of the show is to educate farmers all over the Island. Last year it was in the Comox Valley and next year it will be in the Alberni Valley so it always comes back to Cowichan.”
The show is information-based and is aimed primarily at the farming community. It is not like the annual Cowichan Exhibition in September, which attracts vast crowds to see animals and displays and enjoy a midway and entertainment.
However, even if you’re not a farmer but have interest in agriculture, there’s plenty to see and learn.
There’s even a tour of four area farms, which has proved so popular that it’s already sold out.
The subject of Developing Water Storage on Your Farm is a major topic at the entire two-day event, which features 16 educational workshops from farm business planning to agronomy and funding.
There is also a trade show with more than 60 exhibitors showing everything from the latest in farm equipment to talking about professional services and programs for farmers of every size and sector.
Check right away to see what’s still open. “A lot of the conference sessions are filling up very quickly,” Paterson said.
There are also some events for the children who are coming with their families.
“Friday is our Young Farmers Day and we have all kinds of activities for them,” Paterson said. “These include a planting station where they can plant some seeds and then take them back to school with them and watch their plants grow. Then, we have a spot where they can learn how to weave with actual fibre. The Chicken Growers are bringing Poultry in Motion will be back and we’ll also have BC Dairy Classroom, which is very cool and has never been in Duncan before.”
Those will be available both Friday and Saturday but “it’s especially neat for the young kids to see that,” Paterson said.
The idea of storing water came to the fore last summer as the Valley, along with the rest of the Island, experienced a severe drought.
On Friday, Feb. 12, in Mellor Hall, participants can learn about how consumer behaviour can influence food purchases, how to profit from market trends, and food processing.
In the Scout Hall, there will be sessions on drought and water supply, the provincial water use reporting and management tool, and an event called Farmland Leasing 101.
The next day, on Saturday, Feb. 13, workshops include how farmers can tap into the Island craft brewing industry, farm perspectives from the new generation, a Q&A session with a noted Canadian expert on the economics of food, a session called Beyond the Shoebox about business and tax fundamentals for new farmers, and another about crop scouting tips and tools for horticulturists.
To round off the showcases, Valley View Farms will hold horse demonstrations during the event.
You can see demonstration rides with American Saddlebred horses presenting Saddleseat Equitation, gaited horse, park horse, hunter pleasure, competitive trail, and western pleasure riding.
In addition, Precisely, the great black American Saddlebred stallion, will be attending this year’s show. The Farm will have staff on hand to answer any questions and to give out handouts.
Admission is $5 for the trade show, $15 per conference session and $20 for the farm tour and panel. You can register at www.iashow.ca
A special welcoming reception will feature many dignitaries.
“We’ve got B.C.’s Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon coming to the welcome reception on Friday evening. And Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, will be here as well. He is a former Minister of Agriculture. And local dignitaries will be there as well. That event is sponsored by the Cowichan Valley Regional District. We’ll have local wines, and local foods, prepared by local chefs. We’re really excited about highlighting the Valley,” Paterson said.