By Demian Pettman
Don Bassermann, former educator and Prince George City councillor, recently gave a presentation on alternative revenue streams for landowners and others with access to land in our region of British Columbia.
His purpose was to get people’s creative juices flowing when it comes to developing and diversifying their land-based businesses.
He definitely got the salivary glands working, as he brought with him some of the items he has produced from his city lot. Fruit wines, jams, jellies, dried teas, vegetables, and other products were given to the audience of this well-attended event.
Bassermann is a lively speaker and got our imaginations working. He talked about the overseas market for animal protein in the growing middle classes of China and India – just a cargo plane flight away via the Prince George International Airport.
This appetite for fish, goat and duck (all creatures that fare well in our climate) is large; although small producers may not be able to satisfy it, but by working together co-operatively, we could be exporting tonnes, altogether making a very worthwhile enterprise.
He highlighted Cariboo entrepreneurs, such as rancher Taylor Grafton who is refining an Arctic char operation, which he says was his most profitable income stream last year.
Bassermann lauded the District of 100 Mile House’s efforts to develop a local hemp industry. Hemp is not just a quick-growing fibre source, but also a versatile product found in food and beverages, nutritional and personal care products.
The biggest market is a huge country directly south, where it’s still illegal to grow in some states.
There is also a large North American demand for items, such as vegetable juice, herbs and teas.
Of particular interest was the increasing popularity of fruit wineries, which not only provide jobs in wine production and serving, but also require a constant source of fruit and flowers. Distilleries, such as one found in Pemberton (only available through private liquor stores), also require a reliable supply of vegetables, such as potatoes.
Bassermann listed other items not usually considered for commercial production – willow fuel, birch elixirs, floral products, lilac, mint, fireweed, nettle and horseradish. There are also exotic crops that do well in our climate, including the haskap berry.
He said the markets are there, but we need to develop a new view of production, where many benefit and contribute. There are emerging processing and delivery facilities in our region, and a trend toward buying local.
Bassermann was also passionate about keeping young people on the land, by creating viable economies for them, such as tourism and the new phenomenon of “dryland cruising” (cruise experience on dry I am sure he left everyone thinking about the “weeds” in their yards This presentation was sponsored by the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC). Contact David Majcher, CCBAC manager, at 250-305-9734, for more information.
Demian Pettman is a member South Cariboo Sustainability Society.