Each year, we present members of BC’s organic community with the following awards:
Normally, our annual COABC awards are presented at the closing banquet of the BC Organic Conference. But this year, for reasons that are obvious, we went virtual!
In one of our conference podcasts we surprised the award recipients with the news, and at our live conference session we gave them a chance to say a few words in front of their peers. And, it gave their peers a chance to say a few words about them!
Here are the 2021 COABC Award winners and a few of the many reasons why they’re so deserving of this recognition:
Mary Alice embodies the very name of her farm in the cyclical focus of her approach to agriculture: ALM Farm, coming from the Arabic Alif Lem Mim, meaning the beginning, the middle and the end.
She has long recognized the needs of a sustainable and vibrant organic sector, including the importance of mentorship and learning. This is perhaps most obvious in her involvement with Stewards of Irreplaceable Lands (SOIL), which helps pair interns with experienced farmers. Mary has also trained and mentored countless new farmers herself.
Mary Alice also recognizes the importance of access to land for farming. To that end, she co-founded the Sooke Region Farmland Trust, which embraces a vision of holding land for the sake of food production rather than real estate speculation.
Mary Alice’s work on saving seeds has been crucial in the recognition of the importance of seed security. With her business Full Circle Seeds, she is a member of the BC Eco Seed Co-op and has saved seeds for over 25 years, stewarding some 275 varieties.
Rod has been a stalwart supporter and defender of organics in the Fraser Valley and beyond for several decades. He volunteered many years of service as a board director with BCARA and the COABC, has gone out of his way to mentor and assist livestock producers, and has been steadfast in standing up for organic producers with marketing boards.
In Season Farms provides an option of high-quality feeds to growers of many scales of production. Rod strongly advocates for various scales of production, and has not been afraid to act as a dissenting voice in forums where he believes matters of principle are at stake. In the words of one of his nominators, Rod “maintains integrity that goes beyond the letter of the standard. He truly believes in the principles behind the movement.”
Arzeena earned her bachelor’s degree in crop science from the University of Guelph and her master’s degree in sustainable agriculture from the University of London, England. Arzeena worked abroad for many years as a CUSO volunteer in Thailand, and as a researcher in Jamaica, India and Bangladesh. She was the staff agrologist for West Coast Seeds in the late 1990s and ran her own seed company, Terra Viva Organics.
From 2008 – 2012, Arzeena was the coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society, where she oversaw a number of community projects, including a proposal to the city of Richmond to declare itself a GMO-free zone. In 2010, in conjunction with Kwantlen University, Arzeena helped to launch the Richmond Farm School.
Arzeena has served on the board and executive of the COABC and as a mentor for the Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network. In 2015, Arzeena was one of the founding members of Merville Organic Growers Cooperative, a marketing cooperative based in the Comox Valley that helped small-scale growers develop capacity and a market for their produce.
In 2017, Arzeena was part of a study tour of agriculture cooperatives in Italy, hosted by Vancity Credit Union. Arzeena founded the Mid Island Farmers’ Institute in 2016 to support the sharing of knowledge about sustainable agriculture in the Comox Valley. In 2018, Arzeena served on an advisory committee to the Ministry of Agriculture on the revitalization of the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Arzeena hosts multiple seminars and workshops throughout the year. She’s a leader on issues related to climate change, diversity and equity, and on issues of food, agriculture and education. She now serves as an elected representative for Area B in the Comox Valley Regional District.