Each year, we present members of BC’s organic community community with the following awards:
- The Bedrock Award: Created in 2019, its purpose is to honour a person or persons for their contributions towards the foundation of organics.
- The Brad Reid Award: A long-standing award that honours an innovative leader who has strengthened the organic community by moving the sector forward.
Normally, our annual COABC awards are presented at the closing banquet of the BC Organic Conference. But this year, for reasons that are obvious (and the new normal), we went virtual!
In our conference podcast, we surprised the award recipients with the news, and at our live conference session on Feb. 28th, we gave them a chance to say a few words in front of their peers. And, 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 their award:
Bedrock Award: Mary Alice Johnson
Mary Alice embodies the very name of her farm: ALM Farm, coming from the Arabic Alif Lem Mim, meaning the beginning, the middle and the end. She embodies the very name of her farm in the cyclical focus of her approach to agriculture.
Mary Alice has recognized the full needs of a sustainable and vibrant organic sector. This includes mentorship and learning, perhaps most obvious in her involvement with Stewards of Irreplaceable Lands (SOIL), which helps pair interns with experienced farmers. Plus, Mary has trained and mentored many new farmers herself.
Stewards are an important aspect, but she also recognizes the importance of access to land. To that end, her efforts as co-founder to establish the Sooke Region Farmland Trust put in place a vision of holding land for the sake of food production rather than real estate speculation.
And of course, her work on saving seeds has been crucial to the larger recognition 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.
Bedrock Award: Rod Reid
Rod has been a stalwart supporter of organics through his service as a board member with BCARA, and as a board member with COABC, but far beyond this work as well. Rod has also provided substantial support to livestock producers, both in actions taken to carve out a place and stand ground for organic producers with marketing boards, as well as in mentoring and assisting livestock producers.
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. As his nominator notes, Rod “maintains integrity that goes beyond the letter of the standard. He truly believes in the principles behind the movement.”
Brad Reid Award – Arzeena Hamir
Arzeena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Crop Science from the University of Guelph and her Master’s Degree is Sustainable Agriculture from the University of London, England. Arezeena 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, which included 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 cooperative 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 on issues of food, agriculture and education. She now serves as an elected representative for Area B in the Comox Valley Regional District.