A different kind of winter getaway

Thinking about a winter getaway that could make a positive difference somewhere in the world?

FERTILE GROUND VOLUNTEER Kel Kelly provided hands-on training for tea growers and students in a village near the India-Bhutan border.

FERTILE GROUND VOLUNTEER Kel Kelly provided hands-on training for tea growers and students in a village near the India-Bhutan border.

Thinking about a winter getaway that could make a positive difference somewhere in the world?

Fertile Ground, a non-profit organization in the Comox Valley, might be able to help.

The group works with farmers and tea growers in northeast India.  They’re looking for volunteers who have hands-on experience in making compost, who understand how important it is to save and protect seeds of plants suited to local growing conditions — and who are interested in making meaningful connections with kindred spirits in Assam.

Peggy Carswell, Fertile Ground’s co-ordinator, says requests for help have been coming in different parts of the state — a mostly rural area where farmers want to follow their traditional farming practices and are reluctant to turn to the chemical fertilizers and pesticides promoted by state agricultural extension workers.

In 1998, Carswell and her husband, Kel Kelly came across a brief reference in the Lonely Planet Guide to a remote region in the foothills of the Himalayas that was “seldom visited by travellers from the west.”

Since that time, they’ve returned to Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley on an annual basis.

In the past decade, about 30 people of all ages from Canada, the U.S. and India have joined them in Assam to take part in projects and learn about life in northeast India. They’ve discussed what it means to grow food organically, studied some of India’s traditional farming practices, participated in cultural and educational events and lived with local families in towns and in villages.

Some have stayed for a week or two, others for close to a year  but most are there for a couple of months.

“Working in Assam has helped us learn about the culture and day-to-day life of an amazing corner of the world,” says Carswell. “It’s also offered us an opportunity to share our passion for growing healthy food and living close to the land with people from many different walks of life.”

Their travels have taken them in some very interesting directions.

Initially, Carswell helped fair trade advocates from World Community Development Education Society locate a source of organic tea. She began providing training and encouragement to farming families and tea growers in Assam, and five years later, went on to found Fertile Ground.

The organization has created two demonstration gardens, which offer training and employment for several people from nearby towns and villages. A number of Assamese people who’ve participated in Fertile Ground’s programs are now involved with groups and projects of their own.

Kelly’s close ties to members of the Singpho tribe, one of northeast India’s indigenous peoples, let to an invitation to build a traditional bamboo home in a remote village close to the India/Burma border. With one of the young growers, he set up the Small Tea Co-operative to help find markets for organically grown tea.

He’s designed and constructed swings, teeter-totters and latrines, and worked with Fertile Ground’s volunteers to demonstrate how locally-available material can be used to make compost to add important nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

If this sounds like the kind of travel experience you or someone you know might be interested in, you can learn more about Fertile Ground and the groups they’re working with on their website. An information session for prospective volunteers will take place soon.

For details, call 250-337-8348, or visit www.fertile-ground.org.

— Fertile Ground

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Courtenay man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Cole Moore’s sister sets up GoFundMe to help father looking after brother

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Nineteen people arrested, charges expected in Courtenay house raid

Investigators are continuing to comb through evidence seized

Demonstrators gathered Friday, March 5 at the Courtenay Court House, demanding protection of old-growth forests. Scott Stanfield photo
Concerned citizens march in Courtenay in name of old-growth rainforests

The Comox Valley is one of the B.C. communities engaged in mobilization… Continue reading

LUSH Valley’s partnership with School District 71 this past year helped feed 200 students and families through the Good Food Box program. Screenshot, LUSH Valley/Comox Valley Schools video
LUSH Valley-Comox Valley School Good Food Boxes fed 200 families in 2020

Non-profit organization is looking for new ways to collaborate with school district

Dr. Sandra Allison and Dr. Charmaine Enns joined school district senior staff for a virtual town hall meeting to address the latest COVID concerns in schools. Image, screenshot
No secondary cases in Comox Valley schools, say health officers

School district hosts virtual town hall to address recent COVID-19 cases in schools

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The CVRD building in Courtenay.
Comox Valley organizations in need receive funding

The Comox Valley Regional Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has approved $55,000 in… Continue reading

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A virtual public hearing for a rezoning application for a Comox property was held on March 3. Black Press file photo
No comments at public hearing for Anderton Road rezoning application

The virtual public hearing was held on March 3 for the Comox properties

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Most Read