It’s not often that people go to a fancy real estate awards show and get a history lesson in Indigenous farming.
But that’s exactly what happened when Jacob Beaton was honoured recently at the 2022 Land Awards Gala in New Westminster.
“Indigenous people were agrarian, are agrarian,” he told the crowd after being presented with a Food Lands award from the Real Estate Foundation of BC. “We were farmers in many different ways.”
Beaton won the award for the farm he operates with his family in Kitwanga. It’s called Tea Creek and it’s described as “an Indigenous-led, culturally safe, land-based Indigenous food sovereignty initiative in Gitxsan territory.”
“Tea Creek Farm is helping to restore the ability of Indigenous nations to grow fresh, healthy food and medicine in an interdependent economy,” the award explained.
That mission is important, Beaton explained at the gala, because there are have been many government policies restricting the ability of First Nations people to farm.
That includes the Peasant Farm Policy, which “set limits on Indigenous agriculture on the prairies.”
“The government destroyed the ability of people to farm and removed us from our lands,” Beaton said.
His farm Tea Creek is helping undo that damage while providing real economic opportunities for the Skeena region. Over the past year alone, Beaton said, they’ve hosted more than 1200 Indigenous guests, grown 20,000 pounds of produce and paid out over 15,000 hours worth of wages to Indigenous workers.
“And we did it all in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.