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Indigenous Youth Program Goes Wild

Indigenous Youth Program Goes Wild

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There are many progressive programs and projects in B.C. that are focused on improving food security.  To contribute to that, the folks at Mission Community Skills Centre Society (MCSCS) have recently piloted their Wild Craft Foods Program in support of indigenous youth.

Funded by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, this 10-week paid self-employment training provides participants with a taste of what it takes to start and build a food-related business. The Wild Craft program helps indigenous youth to better connect with the land, with harvesting from the land, and being closer to their culture.

The Small Scale Food Processor Association (SSFPA) also supports the program. They provide guidance for training needs, and sourcing and securing food business specialists like Farm Food Drink to deliver on those needs.

“Mission Community Skills Centre Society is always ahead of the curve on providing employment services that are timely and relevant for our young people,” explains SSFPA Executive Director, Candice Appleby. “These youth gain knowledge that will benefit them in years to come while having life changing experiences.”

Leading the business planning, finance, marketing, and an introduction to the agri-food sector portion of the program, Farm Food Drink is excited to introduce food business and career opportunities to these young people. It’s been encouraging to see the spark in program participants who want to learn how to start and grow their local and wild harvesting food businesses or careers.

“You can see them embrace the importance of helping to feed people,” explains Greg McLaren, Managing Director of Farm Food Drink. “Participants recognize the potential for being proud contributors to the food system.”

What is Wild Craft

During 10 weeks of the Wild Craft Food Program, participants are introduced to a well-rounded program to build personal skills, discover business knowledge, and embrace their cultural heritage.

Part I They spend their first six weeks on Zoom video calls learning a mix of business, practical, and life skills. Some of those modules include:

  • Goal setting
  • Personal money skills
  • Indigenous first aid
  • Mental health and related psychologies
  • Introduction to the agri-food sector
  • Business planning, finances, and marketing
  • Digital marketing – social media
  • Agriculture collection – plant safety, sustainability and resources

Part II Over the following four weeks, participants start to work on their own business project. They are also immersed in some hands-on work experience that closely connects them to the land, and their culture.

  • Native plants identification
  • Mushroom and berry picking
  • Sturgeon fishing
  • Horse-back riding
  • Stó:lō Museum tour

Besides learning safe and sustainable harvesting, food safety is explained, so they know what to do with the plants and food they’ve harvested.

Cultural Importance Every Friday, participants hear from an Elder to learn about cultural practices and cultural support. Many of these indigenous youth have no connection with their people, their heritage. The Elders, including a residential school survivor, share stories, traditions, and encouragement to bring their culture back to life.

Participants are also invited to meet with someone from Community Futures. They discover how they could get funded and receive additional support for their food business venture.

As an added support to their business planning, participants receive a laptop so they can be fully engaged with the program, the instructors, and each other.

Graduation To wrap up their part in the program and prepare them for a future in the food industry, participants present their plan with a business pitch. They seek suggestions from their instructors and fellow participants.

Criteria to Apply – Applicants to the Wild Craft Foods Program, must meet the following criteria:

  • Eligible to work in Canada
  • Have a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Self identify as an indigenous youth
  • Age between 16 and 30 years
  • Reside between Hope and Vancouver

Wild Craft Future

Three cohorts have recently gone through the Wild Craft Food Program, with one more to start in January 2022. The consensus of organizers, instructors, and participants is that this initiative has been extremely successful.

“I saw people’s lives change,” exclaims Jenna-Mary Cruickshanks, MCSCS facilitator for the Wild Craft program. “You can see their confidence rise, that they are amazing people, and that there is a future for them by embracing an agri-food business.”

The Wild Craft program is charting a course for these indigenous youth to develop a food-related business or career. And although it is currently open to indigenous youth in the Fraser Valley, there are plans to see how it can become a permanent opportunity as a program offered throughout B.C.

Farm Food Drink is very proud to be a contributor to this important program. We look forward to seeing these youth help to further develop indigenous food security and the food security for all of B.C.  The upheaval of the last few years has shown us that, here in B.C., we must do better in feeding ourselves.  These youth may be part of our solution.

For more information on the type of workshop material we provide for the B.C. food sector contact us to have a conversation.

For more info on MCSC or the Wild Craft Food Program visit their website.

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