Moving Towards Decolonization in Governance


During the past year, the governance working group has begun several ongoing initiatives within Foodlands. These initiatives — which include Listening to the Land events, seasonal Fireside Chats, and the exploration of sociocracy as a governance model — are distinct, but their histories and purposes are deeply entwined, and each is a concrete part of Foodlands’ fundamental work: building right relation on and with the land and the human and more-than-human beings that share that land with us. Furthermore, Listening to the Land, the Fireside Chats, and sociocracy respond to specific structural, relational, and communicational challenges that we have faced within our organizational lifespan.

Decolonization is an ongoing process, without a definitive end point, and it is not as simple as refusing to engage with colonial structures. At its foundation, Foodlands is a settler organization, which exists only because of and in response to historical and ongoing colonialism, and the land we occupy continues to be governed by colonial powers in accordance with the logics of private property, capitalism, land ownership, and separability. Furthermore, our work often requires us to engage with these concepts directly, and to interface with institutions such as the Agricultural Land Reserve. Yet at the same time, being in right relation with the land requires that we engage reciprocally and hospitably with its historical and present inhabitants, including its indigenous people, without forcing them to operate or articulate themselves within a structure agreeable only to us.

In many cases, agricultural workers have little knowledge of and no existing relationship with the specific indigenous people whose territories they inhabit. Listening to the Land events aim to remedy this lack of relationship by opening community farms to indigenous-run workshops, conversations, and knowledge-sharing events; they are thus a first step in a never-ending process of accountability, reciprocity, and mutualism. The form of each Listening to the Land event is different, but all serve to establish relationships between settler farmers and the indigenous people whose land they steward, and to create the possibility of right relation.

The Foodlands Fireside Chats respond to a similar, though less severe, rift between Foodlands’ different working groups and member organizations. Once again, the primary purposes are communication and relationship-building; Fireside Chats create an open space for members of otherwise siloed working groups to learn about each other’s discoveries and challenges, share information, discuss the direction and identity of Foodlands, and build working and interpersonal relationships which might extend beyond the confines of the space.

~ Gerhardt Troan, for Foodlands BC
December 2022