I was on a two-day road trip to Stewart and had a chance to drop in at the Tea Creek farm just north of Kitwanga. I had heard of their organization and wanted to meet the organizer Jacob Beaton.
This farm is doing something that most programs are struggling to be successful at. Gathering indigenous youth together and giving them acceptance, safety and a sense of purpose.
“We are non-judgemental and accept people where they are at, not where they are supposed to be, says Jacob. We are a land-based indigenous-led organization developing skills for our people that will provide food security and an opportunity to enter the workforce and support themselves.
“Our post-secondary training programs centre around farming. All the skills needed to be successful in agriculture are taught by experienced instructors. Carpentry, mechanics, planting, harvesting and cooking are encouraged for all genders.
“We have our own sawmill and are able to mill lumber used in the construction of our outbuildings. Tailgate talks take place every morning as safety is a top priority. We take a business approach to implementation of these programs and also support student involvement in administration and finance.
“We are an all-rounded, personal growth organization seeking to bring out the best in our people. Everyone has a gift and we want them to find that special quality. Some of our students come to us with very low self-esteem. Some do not have personal financial skills, some are not prepared for off-reserve life.
“We change that. Everyone can learn and everyone does learn and come away from Tea Creek with improved life skills, said Jacob, and better technical knowledge. Knowledge is power and we want to empower our students with just that, the power to be better, the power to support ourselves and our families. And, of course, food sovereignty is a big part of that equation.
“When you grow and harvest your own food there is a certain pride and sense of accomplishment from that. Your soul strengthens. We produced 16 tons of potatoes this year. Our carrot and cabbage crop was phenomenal. This was our first tomato and cucumber production from our greenhouse.
“We feed all our students in-house and enrolment reached 150 participants and 32 staff this year. We had over 1,000 drop-ins where people come to see what we have and participate in a three-day introductory session.
“Our programs are supported by all chiefs throughout B.C. Our mentors and elders contribute to a culturally safe environment based on our holistic model.
“Funding has been our biggest hurdle each of our three years of operation and presently we have no secured finances for 2024 in place as of yet. We are classed as a post-secondary training facility and will receive certain support depending on enrolment, but we also need housing support and a longer-term financial commitment to provide security.”
Thanks for the tour and information Jacob, I think the concept is amazing and wish you all the success in the future, I said. Your positivity is infectious.
“We are already having success with our present graduates,” added Jacob. It is very rewarding to see the changes in students arriving somewhat unsure and leaving more confident for their future.”
For more information, the website is: www.teacreek.ca.