Expanding an Indigenous-led Education and Demonstration Farm in ‘Yalis (Alert Bay)

The Nawalakw Community Education and Demonstration Farm in Alert Bay provides garden boxes in three different communities. Photo courtesy of XX.
The Nawalakw Community Education and Demonstration Farm in Alert Bay provides garden boxes in three different communities. Photo courtesy of Hannah Roessler.

An engaging community space is being developed at Nawalakw Farm

COURTENAY, 12 September 2023 – The Nawalakw Healing Society, an Indigenous non-profit, is developing infrastructure at their Community Education and Demonstration Farm in ‘Ya̱lis (Alert Bay) through a new project investment with Island Coastal Economic Trust 

The project will build on a 2.5-acre farm created by Nawalakw with the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay in 2019 as a response to the loss of food security during the COVID-19 pandemic. The area has been established by Indigenous and settler community members residing in ‘Yalis to increase the community’s ability to grow, process, and distribute fruits and vegetables based on a framework embedded in traditional Indigenous knowledge and practices.  

“This project goes straight to the heart of our mission by enhancing support towards a healthy and sustainable approach to food,” says K’odi Nelson, Executive Director of Nawalakw Healing Society. “Our remote Indigenous communities have been especially burdened with a health care crisis, the ever-rising costs of food, and difficulty in accessing fresh, grown produce. These issues are acutely addressed with our Community Education and Demonstration Farm.” 

The overall goal of the farm improvement project is to create a welcoming, respectful, walkable, safe, healthy, and engaging public space for everyone. Improvements to the farm include creating a public bathroom with running hot water, installing gathering space infrastructure and a washing station for farm produce, improving the trails, implementing site and garden/veggie bed orientation, adding barrel composters, and including educational signage in Kwakʼwala.  

“Community members consistently visit the site to get information or receive knowledge and expertise on gardening,” says K’odi. “This gathering space will allow us to better host fee-for-service activities like workshops and car washes (run by youth), and a farm stand to both sell and give away farm produce and seasonal products.” 

The farm was initially made possible through the donation of two lots by the ‘Namgis First Nation, plus an earthwork to clear the land and topsoil to get the farm started. There are currently two greenhouses at the farm for annual seeding and growing, along with nearly 200 different fruit trees or bushes to ensure a legacy of fresh fruits and berries. 

“This farm is an inspiration bringing the community together with Elders, youth, and ‘Ya̱lis community members committing to building local food security while fostering each other’s wellbeing,” says Brodie Guy, CEO, Island Coastal Economic Trust. “We’re grateful to partner with Nawalakw on this new project and we can’t wait to see how this place continues to unfold as a safe, healthy, and engaging public space on Cormorant Island.” 

“The transformative potential of this project for the community is undeniable. Food security is so vital for not only the physical but the mental wellbeing of residents,” says Brian Cant, Acting President and CEO, 4VI. “The Nawalakw Community Education and Demonstration Farm will provide a space for both community engagement and empowerment. We’re honoured to be even a small part of their story, and we’re excited to see it come to life.” 

“Growing and sharing food together is one of the best ways we can strengthen our community,” said Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island. “I’m pleased the Trust is supporting the work of the Nawalakw Healing Society to improve their Community Education and Demonstration Farm, a place for the community to gather, socialize and learn, all while improving food security in the region.” 

Island Coastal Economic Trust is investing with Nawalakw Healing Society in the Nawalakw Community Education and Demonstration Farm through the Community Placemaking program. The Trust will contribute $50,000 which includes $25,000 from 4VI who have partnered with the Trust to fund projects through the Community Placemaking program. The program provides one-stop funding up to $50,000 for as much as 100% of project costs for communities to collaboratively reimagine and revitalize public spaces across the coast. 

The project is set to get underway shortly. 


About Island Coastal Economic Trust

Founded by the Province of British Columbia in 2006, the Island Coastal Economic Trust works to build a sustainable and resilient coastal economy in reciprocal relationships with First Nations, municipalities, and regional districts across Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and islands and inlets from the Salish Sea to Cape Caution. Serving over half a million residents, we partner with communities in the development and financing of their economic infrastructure and diversification efforts through our unique structure that is led by, and accountable to, communities.

Since our inception, Island Coastal Economic Trust has approved more than $59 million to economic development initiatives that have attracted over $323 million in new investment to our region. These investments have created over 2,910 permanent jobs, and countless positive impacts, across the coast.

Island Coastal Economic Trust acknowledges that we work for communities across the ancestral and unceded territories of the Kwak̓wala, Nuučaan̓uɫ, Éy7á7juuthem, Ligwilda’xw, Pəntl’áč, She shashishalhem, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Hul’q’umi’num’, diitiidʔaatx̣, SENĆOŦEN, Lekwungen, and T’Sou-ke speaking peoples.



Media Contacts

Brodie Guy
Island Coastal Economic Trust

K’odi Nelson
Executive Director
Nawalakw Healing Society