Four Women-run Projects that are Redefining Agriculture

Marta Zwart

We’re showcasing creative and innovative women who are leading the way towards creating a more equitable future for food security. The work they’ve done and continue to do for their communities, the organic movement, and the environment deserve to be recognized. We’re very lucky to have such dedicated caretakers across the country, and understand that these are only a few examples of extraordinary women we know.

1. McConnell Foundation & SeedChange: Jane Rabinowicz and Tiffany Traverse

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Jane Rabinowicz, Tiffany Traverse and the whole team at the McConnell Foundation and SeedChange have been working with farmers and like-minded organizations to reclaim the power of good food and nourish communities. They are passionate changemakers with a fascination for seeds and are determined to mitigate the impact of climate change. They continue to work towards improving farmers’ livelihoods, increasing land biodiversity, and promoting seed and food sovereignty.

Jane Rabinowicz is a Chief Program Officer at the McConnell Foundation, and was an Executive Director at SeedChange until 2021. She has dedicated her career to community-led change, and is recognized by The Globe and Mail as one of the most influential people in Canada’s food system. She promotes ethical seed sourcing and creating community-based projects to teach different ways of approaching organic farming. She believes in the cooperation between organic and regenerative agriculture to create a balance for farmers and consumers alike while raising awareness of the significance of maintaining seed health.

Tiffany Traverse is a board member of SeedChange, an Indigenous Researcher, and an Indigenous Land & Seed Steward in the Peace Region of British Columbia. She’s currently researching and working alongside Métis seed keeper, Caroline Chartrand, on a rare Indigenous seed project. She’s always been fascinated with the beautiful mysteries surrounding seed sovereignty, and is now challenging the common agricultural practices by studying and implementing Indigenous methods that revolve around permaculture. She redirects all findings and credit back to the Indigenous Land by promoting the practices and ingenuity that have been keeping people healthy for generations.
With less than 1% of Canadians being farmers, there is pressure on farmers to produce enough to feed the masses, let alone use regenerative organic processes. This is why Rabinowicz, Traverse and the whole team at the McConnell Foundation and SeedChange are taking strides towards promoting a system that works with the environment to create better practices instead of fighting against it and deteriorating it further.

To learn more about the work of McConnell Foundation or SeedChange, click here!


2. Heart Beet Organics: Amy Smith & Verena Varga

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Amy Smith and Verena Varga are known in PEI for their beautiful and bountiful farm. They made a name for themselves by growing all sorts of organic goods, while doing so with less than two acres of land. When they first moved to the island, there were many doubts surrounding their potential success, but they quickly showed what determination, hard work and creativity can get you. 

Since the majority of farms in Canada are inherited from family, it’s difficult to get into the agricultural world without being raised in it. Smith and Varga saw this gap in the system, and created an apprenticeship program for people who are interested in learning more about farming and organics. Smith can track all of her farming success back to her experiences working side by side in the fields with her mentors, and wants others to have the same opportunity. Smith and Varga invite curious, ambitious people in their community to work alongside them in hopes that some may discover a passion for agriculture. 

“The best farming education you can get is getting your hands dirty and working side by side with farmers” - Amy Smith, Saltscapes.

Additionally, they are fighting against food waste by creating products out of their unmarketable produce. For example, they produce delicious and healthy fermented products including kimchi, tempeh, hot sauce and much more. Heart Beet became the first and largest commercial producer of Kombucha in PEI. In 2019, they opened their farm-to-table café and kombucha tap room, where they serve plant-based meals that feature their produce and fermented products.

These women faced doubts and skepticism from the agro-community and turned it into motivation. Their enthusiasm, dedication, and passion for organics and their community is only the start of their triumphs. To learn more about Heart Beet Organics, click here!


3. Saanich Organics: Heather Stretch, Robin Tunnicliffe, Rachel Fisher

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Heather Stretch, Robin Tunnicliffe and Rachel Fisher are co-owners of Saanich Organics in Victoria, British Columbia, and each have certified organic farms of their own. They started Saanich Organics out of frustration with the amount of imported food coming into their community when fresh organic products were being grown locally. They noticed there was a gap between consumers and local organic farmers that could be fixed if food was made more accessible. Saanich Organics gave the opportunity to mend the bond between organic farmers and the local community by providing easy accessibility to organic food. They now provide a delivery service. They also offer a regular meeting place for farmers and consumers to sell, discuss, and buy local organic products -- this is supporting their local farms and lessening the communities’ environmental impact.

They have since continued their work in sustainable organics by creating Seeds of the Revolution which provides healthy seeds along with growing recommendations on the packaging. The seeds can be mailed out all across Canada, and are great for small producers, farmers, and commercial growers alike.

These women saw a barrier in their community and took the initiative to create a better way to build relationships between farmers and consumers. Check out their work here!


4. Food Systems Lab: Tammara Soma, Tamara Shulman, and Belinda Li

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Tammara Soma, Tamara Shulman, and Belinda Li are co-directors of the Food Systems Lab, a research hub that specializes in bringing a sustainable food system to everyone. They’re working to reduce food waste in a way that enhances ecosystems, conserves natural resources, and mitigates climate change. They were sick of the band-aid solution that has been sweeping the environmental justice sector, and decided to build a community of scientists and researchers to build the lab. They wanted to make sure to build the foundation from three principle pillars: Reconciliation, social justice and inclusion.

With their team of specialized professionals, data-driven approaches, and in-depth research and design methods, these women are able to develop and evaluate solutions to improve the food system and our ecological footprint.

To check out the Food Systems Lab’s latest research, findings, and progress, please visit their website here!