L is for Local
A journey through the frontlines of innovation to address food security, exploring ag-tech, community farming and homesteading in British Columbia.
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“L is for Local” is a 41 minute documentary produced by Match Media, Destineak Music and Telus about the quest for local food security in the lower mainland of British Columbia.
The program is currently televised on Telus Optik TV as part of the Storyhive “GameChangers” Documentary series, highlighting individuals and organizations making positive impacts in BC and Alberta.
“L is for Local” is rated G and is an educational, inspiring and entertaining documentary about the communities that foster food security in BC.
Director & Host: Christina Sing
Cinematographer & Editor: Bobby James
Produced by: Match Media, Destineak Music, Telus
Filming Dates: May 2022 - October 2022
Airing Dates: Oct. 17, 2024 Onward
Viewing Platforms: TELUS Optik TV Channel 9, Storyhive Youtube, Match Media Youtube
About the Documentary
Approximately 3 million of us live, work and eat here in the lower mainland of BC. If we work collectively, can we achieve food security for ourselves? If we had enough warning, could we ease our dependence on the fragile supply chain before it collapses? Can we responsibly utilize our energy resources and land? What manpower and technology will it take?
We’ll show you on a Micro level how our small family grows fresh food year round in our small apartment. We’ll hunt down ways to acquire fresh eggs and meat from our local farmer’s market. A journey of discovery, partially through the lens of our 5 year old son, who will hopefully use some of this knowledge toward his own resilience in the future.
On a Medium food security level, Abundance Community Farm in Agassiz, BC operates a holistic community agriculture model, showing us that small groups can work together to abandon their vegetable grocery bills for 4 to 5 months of the year! Free organic produce in exchange for rich, rewarding work. No money is exchanged. Families that drive in from all over the lower mainland contribute 6 hours a month of work on the bountiful farm during the summer, and enjoy the spoils of the rich earth, shared amongst a community of 50 families.
On a Macro level, the ingenious folks at CubicFarms have found a way to produce food commercially and sustainably with their local chain agricultural tech model of vertical farming, producing fresh food for hundreds of thousands of people right in our vicinity, avoiding lengthy distribution chains and unnecessary wastage. CubicFarms grows food 365 days a year, using 95% less water, and 95% land. This method creates 80% less food waste, and boasts a 99% crop success rate. Discover the expertise and diversity of what a commercial vertical farming environment looks like.
We’ll even touch on a Mammalian level, by following the group at EcoDairy that uses a cutting edge vertical farming technology called HyrdoGreen, which grows abundant feed year round for their cows who provide milk for the Fraser Valley. The stacked vertical trays grow feed around the clock to supplement the diets of cows and other grazing animals.
The stories from our small family, Abundance Community Farm, CubicFarms, HydroGreen, will all have differing reflections around each chapter, and be told in parallel with one another, showing the differences and similarities that we might all share!
A Brief History of the Creators, Christina Sing & Bobby James
Growing up poor, I was always instilled with a sense of motion. Ambition. Graduation. What’s next? 1 of 7 Vietnamese immigrant children, life was not luxurious, but in many ways it was surprisingly plentiful. We never longed for playmates with so many of us around. My parents were extremely resourceful. My father worked in a cucumber greenhouse in Richmond. My mother was a full time housewife, so she was always accessible. Extremely busy, but eternally ready at the whim to fulfill our every need. Her main concern at all times? If we were fed. For example, if I ever forgot my lunch, rain, snow or shine, she would walk it up the hill 8 blocks to my school, younger toddler brothers in tow, and drop it off at the front office. At least a few times a month, during the morning block, I’d hear “Christina Nguyen, you have a pick up at the front desk” over the loudspeaker. Most of the time it was a bologna sandwich and a banana, and sometimes an umbrella too if it was raining.
My mother saved the gourmet meals for dinner time. How she managed to always whip up sauteed vegetables, seafood soup with fresh greens, and braised meats for 9 people on a slightly above minimum wage salary, I’ll never guess. We NEVER ate out. I don’t recall my parents ever going on vacation or buying anything for themselves.
My father would occasionally bring home the imperfect cucumbers and tomatoes from the green house. We didn’t care that they were too curly to fit into packages or had extra fingers protruding from the side. Food was food. On the farm, which I only recall being called “Tony’s Farm”, there were also expansive blueberry fields. Every summer, we’d don used ice cream pails tied to sashes around our waists and pick blueberries. We’d get paid 30 cents for every pound we picked. At the age of 12, I was picking around 80 lbs a day. $24 dollars for an 8 hour day in the sun, singing in the fields, absorbing vitamin D, and eating my fill of antioxidant rich blueberries. I spent the saved up wages buying back to school clothes and supplies.
Our lives were surrounded by food. Growing food. Picking food. Washing food. Cooking food. Saving food. Pickling food. Eating food. Shopping for food. It's still at the forefront of my being. I’ve always been obsessed with cooking, especially Vietnamese culinary delights. The point is we thought about food all the time and where it came from.
Then came music. Church choir and the early 2000’s dance scene in Vancouver harboured singing my talent. Graduating from Vancouver Community College with a jazz degree helped me write proper songs. Starting a popular electronic duo with my husband allowed me a comfortable living playing music, but the dream was to always get away from the small town of Vancouver.
New York. LA. Glastonbury. That’s where we thought dreams were made.
My husband Bobby had an equal itch to abound out of our quaint town. He grew up on a farm on Vancouver Island, last of 42 children that were fostered by his saintly parents. He grew up with a core of 8 siblings, on the small acreage, eating straight from their vegetable garden, milking their own cows, and milling their own wheat. The orchards in the backyard bore sweet apples that unsupervised children kicked out of trees, swerving on homemade zip lines while developing their fearless, strong bodies, and imaginations.
Eventually music also coated Bobby in wanderlust. As a drummer in touring rock bands for most of his 20’s and 30’s, he tasted first hand the magic of enchanted packed stadiums, the thrall of screaming crowds, the uncharted future of waking up on a tour bus somewhere in North America or Europe. He hastened to get back out there any chance he had. Together, we blessedly got to perform for the masses around Canada and North America in our band called DESTINEAK. We had chart climbing hits, enough rowdy memories to last a lifetime, and songs we were passionate about. But the anxiety of chasing fame in the insecurity laden music industry had us constantly wanting more.
Until the pandemic hit.
We learned to live without performing for almost 2 years. Neither one of us had gone more than a month without performing before that. Introspection came with the recognition of just how spoiled we had become. We had a beautiful son, a rewarding career, and every other luxury we could want or need. Why the heck had we been so restless?
Alas, the cruel “pot at the end of the rainbow” syndrome. Riding our bikes around the Vancouver seawall, did we even deserve that warm ocean air on our faces while we were so anxious to leave? Crab fishing at Barnet Marine Park with our extended families on a lazy Sunday, hiking Lynn Valley as a birthday treat, doing yoga at Crescent Beach - That’s just the crux of it really… We were living in heaven on Earth and we didn’t even know it.
Of course there are many tropical utopias that rival Vancouver, and there’s no denying that our music careers might have popped sooner had we been born in LA, but the people that we have ended up becoming: Mother and Father to gregarious 6 year old Xander, film makers, music producers who work from the comfort of home, these are sweet realities that we got to revel in during the pandemic. With age, we possess so many amazing memories and blessings to chew on. The preening and searching have become less aggressive, as we are learning to just BE.
During the writing of this story, the idea of enjoying and supporting locals came married with the realization that everything we will ever need is right here at our doorstep. The lower mainland of BC has some of the world’s richest resources, the kindest people, and the most beautiful oceans. We need look no further for our food security, happiness, or any satisfaction for that matter. The pot of gold is right here at our end of the rainbow.