The Bella Coola Ag Society has created a bursary in Gary Runka's honour.

Bella Coola Ag Society honours late Gary Runka with Memorial Bursary

The Bella Coola Valley Sustainable Agricultural Society is pleased to announce the Gary Runka Memorial Bursary

The Bella Coola Valley Sustainable Agricultural Society is pleased to announce the Gary Runka Memorial Bursary, which sponsors one Valley resident per year to attend the annual conference of the BC Food Systems Network. As a longtime, devoted Director of the BCVSAS, Gary worked tirelessly to strengthen local food systems and prioritize the needs and wellbeing of our community.

His lifelong dedication and commitment to sound land use planning included his visionary participation in the founding of the Agricultural Land Reserve. Gary was a leader, mentor and friend. This bursary honours his passionate commitment to sustainable agriculture and food systems, and his deep respect for grassroots, community-level action.

The BC Food Systems Network exists to link people all over the province involved in community-level action related to food, highlighting the way food issues cross cultures, sectors, and age groups. It encompasses a very broad and diverse membership, including farmers, fishers, harvesters, hunters, processors, academics, civil servants, activists, retailers, emergency food providers, public health, educators, workers, and more.

With strong support for and participation from Indigenous food systems advocates, as well as a solid representation from remote communities, the Network has provided an important avenue for collaboration and empowerment. (A notable success that grew out of Network collaboration was the genesis of the amendment to the meat inspection regulations.)

This emphasis on cross-sectional collaboration and genuine commitment to finding solutions make the Network’s annual gathering an ideal partner for the Gary Runka Memorial Bursary.

The first recipient of the bursary, local super-volunteer Rhonda Coles, attended the gathering this past summer in Sorrento, BC. “People were really nice and inviting,” Coles reported. “I went to a lot of workshops and panels that had great ideas that would work here.” Coles attended a recent meeting of the Board of the BCVSAS, and presented a thorough report of the highlights of her learning and their potential for application in the Valley.

The BCVSAS hopes that the bursary will allow more Bella Coola Valley residents to participate in the provincial movement for food sovereignty. This will reduce isolation, provide an opportunity to make connections to the wider food system, and bring new ideas and energy to solving some of our local food system challenges, as well as sharing our homegrown solutions with the world.

For more information about the Gary Runka Memorial Bursary, please contact Liz Howard at bellacoolanut@gmail.com. To learn more about the BC Food Systems Network, visit www.fooddemocracy.org.