Building a Life Boat

Ben Kadel of the Life Boat Academy on South Pender Island first contacted the Foodlands Cooperative seeking knowledge, ideas, and expertise on how to own land in common for community good. Heather took it on to work with the group to purchase 47 acres of mixed wooded hills and beautiful farmland to create a Community Farm and a permanent home for the Life Boat Academy.

In January of 2023 the Foodlands Cooperative participated in a design charrette with current and prospective members. Part of the agenda for the meeting was to determine whether or not there was enough community support, and particularly financial resources, to proceed with the project. The charrette gathered ideas building on a Life Boat theme, imagining that, If you were completely adrift, what would you need on a lifeboat? Ideally, what facilities and skills would you need?

The scope of the Life Boat Academy project is ambitious. At the centre of the Life Boat Academy is an active farm enterprise that will  enhance food security for the community and provide economic opportunities for local residents. It is a chronic problem for island economies — the vast proportion of food and goods are imported. Once the COVID pandemic interrupted ferry and transportation services many realized how vulnerable they were  at the far end of a supply chain. 

The large acreage has potential for a variety of agricultural enterprises and provide opportunities for reskilling with the goal of learning how to become more food secure and self sufficient. Also proposed is a time-share retreat facility offering guests a real farm experience.

To acquire the property, the Life Boat Academy will have to raise in excess of 2 million dollars. In order to attract investors and to keep their progressive community values the group is proposing to form a B Corp, or Beneficial Corporation, to hold the title on the property. B Corporations make legal commitments to be accountable to all stakeholders and to meet social and environmental standards set out in a rigorous certification process. 

The Life Boat Academy has adopted Sociocracy as a governance model. Sociocracy offers effective processes for diffuse leadership. By developing specific working “circles” with specific aims and responsibilities, Sociocratic methods leads to better communication between all levels of the organization, stronger engagement and accountability, and streamlined decision making. The Life Boat Academy has already established circles to focus on financing, program development, promotion and recruitment. Foodlands will continue to participate in the fundraising and finance circles. Foodlands is particularly interested in exploring and refining the Sociocracy model of collective governance and decision-making to provide valuable resources for other communities in BC.