KLAS was founded in 2008 by a few like-minded farmers who wanted a simple and inexpensive farmer-to-farmer certification for ecological, regenerative, “earth-friendly” agriculture, which grew into the Kootenay Mountain Grown certification program. They also recognized that this was only a small part of the picture and that a society was needed to gather ideas and funds to build knowledge, capacity, and markets for local farmers.
Through projects like the Tool Library, practical workshop series, the Growing in the Kootenays farming guides, and more, the founding members—notably Jeremy and Nette Lack, Abra Brynne, Wayne Harris, Dave Johnson, and Jade Summer—wanted to strengthen and support the entire network of local, sustainable agriculture and all the related businesses in our region.
Partnerships with funding organizations such as the Columbia Basin Trust, and with local businesses such as Ferraro’s and Evergreen have helped bring farmers, distributors, and consumers closer together.
KLAS lost its most valuable resource after founder Jeremy Lack passed away suddenly in 2013. Jeremy and Nettie were devoted to KLAS and managed many hats within the organization. After his passing, the organization did its best to maintain the programs and services previously offered. Over the past 6 years, KLAS has had its struggles.
From 2016 to 2018, the BC Government was able to protect the term “organic” and made it mandatory that producers selling under the label needed to be inspected by a third-party verification officer for the integrity of the organic program. Over this time, our organization noticed an apparent need for change around KMG as public confusion between KMG and Organic standards increased and local retailers were no longer able to market KMG as an equivalent to organic and removed their support for KMG branded products. This also lead to many commercial growers under KMG scaling back their operations or transitioning into certified organic. At the moment, KLAS is working towards developing the future of KMG to support growers practicing sustainable, ecological and regenerative practices but are not currently certified organic. Take our survey as your opinions on KMG matter to KLAS!
With many new and younger board members who are actively involved in our local agriculture networks, KLAS has a bright future ahead as it follows the missions set out by our founders.
Over the years, the tool library has continued to develop to better serve our local needs. There are three depots to serve the Central Kootenays, North Kootenay Lake and Creston Valley. We are still working towards expanding the tools available for home-gardeners all the way to commercial growers. The tool library is a unique program in North America and we get questions all the time from other organizations asking about setting up similar systems for their needs. We want our local community to take advantage of this amazing equipment that will help you grow more food!
KLAS is also looking at becoming the local resource hub as there are many other amazing local-food focused organizations and professionals that offer terrific programs, education, resources to advance agriculture in their own ways.
The KLAS Board of Directors makes decisions based on the following mandate:
- To increase the availability and production of local food through the provision of rental tools and workshops, and to network and share information among members.
- To advocate for increased regional food security, including fair food prices so that local farms can thrive.
- To promote research into ecologically sound agriculture, including support for relevant grant applications and projects, and for volunteer initiatives.
- To work collaboratively with other farming organizations and initiatives promoting sustainable farming practices and local food.
- To verify local farmers under the Kootenay Mountain Grown (KMG) standards, to market the KMG brand regionally, and to educate consumers about KMG’s sustainable farming practices.
Our main region extends from Nakusp, Kaslo and the Slocan Valley, south through Nelson and Castlegar, and from Rossland and Trail across Beaver Valley to Salmo and Creston in the east.
Tools from our library can be rented outside of this area! Take a look at where your nearest Depot is on our interactive Google Map!