If we are what we eat, then we are the Earth. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, this is something that many of may forget, which makes it even more significant to take time when we can to honour the Earth, the land, ourselves, and the responsibilities we hold for each other.

This Earth Day, April 21, just such an opportunity is available. John Barsby Community School in Nanaimo will be hosting the event this year with a range of activities that ask participants to not only celebrate the Earth, but to also remember it is our responsibility to take action in our daily lives. There is a special focus on encouraging and engaging with our community’s youth to be inspired in the call to action.

Lead organiser and Barsby Garden Facilitator, Chris Brown, hopes that “by encouraging youth to act and participate, they will feel empowered to make it a part of their lifestyle.” It is not only high school students participating and organising but, also VIU students such as Jaimie Smythe, who, for her senior project in the SHAPE program, is focused on cultivating connections that impact community and environmental health.

A diverse array of events will engage the entire family in different aspects of local, sustainable food production and land stewardship. The main event, open from 11am-3pm, will be taking place at Barsby’s Chandler Hall and the garden on the property with local farmers, artisans, interactive stations, speakers, honey bees, food trucks, live music, prizes, and baby goats.

There will also be opportunities to get your hands engaged in the soil with work parties facilitated by Mid-Island Community Development Cooperative, who have been working within our local school system to install learning gardens. There will also be satellite work parties at nearby Georgia and Fairview Elementary Schools and the Five-Acre Farm, all of which are supported by Nanaimo Foodshare. These work parties will take place from 10am-12pm, ending in a gathering together of workers for a free local and wild-harvested luncheon.

There is also a great deal of the past and our shared future to consider. Barsby Community School is part of a long heritage of agriculture in the Harewood area, having once been the site of a Company Farm in the late 1880s, later becoming a large dairy farm. The area was still listed as a part of the 5-acre community farm plan even up until an area map was created in the 1940s. Hoping to be a part of this continuous connection to agricultural land and knowledge systems, Brown hopes to eventually see gardening and food production become a part of school curriculum. In such a dramatically changing and technological world, it is perhaps doubly important to raise awareness about the importance of and opportunities for growing food and that fulfilling careers exist in Earth service professions such as herding, farming, or as green technicians.

The goal of this Earth Day gathering is to bring greater awareness to the roles we all play as community members in creating healthier, safer, more sustainable places. Whether you are a honey bee, student, or a farmer, you have a role! You are invited to take part, get to know your neighbours, and learn how to turn awareness into action.