The Alberni Valley Transition Town Society works in the community to help find ways to ensure a sustainable future despite the challenges of climate change and peak oil. Through volunteer activism, it is hoped that small daily habits locally can make a larger impact world-wide. One of the issues the group has been promoting in Port Alberni is food security and a new position was recently created to lead the helm.
Marcus Lobb was hired in late November as the Food Hub Coordinator and in a short time, the relatively new face to town has already made some positive connections. He brings a background and passion that he hopes will inspire others to consider the impact their choices make on the planet and seek the benefits of eating and growing locally.
Born and raised in southwest Ontario, Marcus left the province in his mid-20s to do some travelling and eventually ended up in Montreal. He was involved in the music scene, started his degree in Geology and worked in the urban agriculture field.
One of his first accomplishments was as the cofounder and coordinator of the City Farms School based out of Concordia University. From there, he worked with the English Montreal school board to have the school's interns help build elementary school gardens. That lead him to work with the school board for the next four years as the environmental awareness advisor and educator.
"The focus was on building gardens, cooking classes and teaching kids about nature and the environment," Marcus said.
As a child, Marcus said he was always inspired by nature, which stemmed partially from his grandfather's small vegetable garden plot.
"He had cherry tomatoes and I just knew they tasted better but I didn't think about it much at the time," he said.
His interest developed over the years and he spent some time as a WWOOF volunteer on organic farms.
"I realized how nice of a lifestyle it is but also how much hard work it takes to be a farmer," he said. "I decided I want to live the lifestyle but do it as a hobby."
He said he his happiest to grow enough greens at home to sustain himself everyday.
"I like the idea of self-sustainability, the outdoors and I see farming as a creative project," he said. "I like starting something and seeing it through. Growing fresh produce tastes better and saves money, too."
When his contract was up in Montreal and he felt ready to leave the city, Marcus followed his partner, Robin Kelley to Port Alberni. She secured a job as the customer service librarian for children and youth at the library and Marcus started volunteering with the AVTTS. Soon funding came through to hire a food hub coordinator and he fit the bill. For the past couple of months, he has been creating a network of individuals and groups interested in local long-term food security.
"My role is to curate a series of round table events to bring stakeholders of the community together with the outcome being a strategic plan for the Valley," Marcus said.
He also wants to bring together small working groups who are willing to put the plan into action.
He said it is important for all members of the community to have access to healthy, nutritious food, including low income families and those who depend on food banks. The feedback so far has been positive, he said.
"A lot of the groups (working with marginalized individuals) believe it would be great to be more connected to other organizations so we need to have some working groups," Marcus said. "They all expressed a need for nutritious food so that means we need more access to land, more support for farmers and programs like Healthy Harvest. It would be great to have more small scale farms to link the food to these organizations."
To encourage such support, a free event on land access and economic opportunities in agriculture takes place this Sunday at Echo Centre. See Friday's Valley Heartbeat on alberni.ca for more information.