Ode to a Farmer poetry contest honours agriculture

Poems can take any form, from a haiku to a true ode, and can be about anything that inspires people along the food chain.

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart (l) and Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick (r) with Chris Porter of Desert Hills Ranch.

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart (l) and Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick (r) with Chris Porter of Desert Hills Ranch.

September 12 to 18 is Farmers Appreciation Week; and the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) is encouraging British Columbians to celebrate the event by writing and submitting poems that honour the province’s local farmers.

The BCAFM’s “Ode to a Farmer” poetry contest is back, with a grand prize of a $150 gift certificate that can be spent at the B.C. farmers’ market of the winner’s choice. Regional winners—including one from the Thompson-Okanagan—will be awarded $50 gift certificates.

“People can definitely write about farmers’ markets,” says Georgia Stanley, the BCAFM’s communications manager. “Or they can write about ranches or farms; anything that’s local food- or produce-themed. The poems we’ve received in the past are all over the place, and are very interesting. It could be anything that inspires people along the food chain, from a farmer in the field to produce to a wonderful meal.”

She says that people are free to use any form of poetry they want, from a haiku to a true ode (defined as “a kind of poem devoted to the praise of a person, animal, or thing, and usually written in an elevated style that expresses deep feeling”). Last year’s grand prize-winning poem—“Ode to a Farmer, From His Love”—was by Taylor Theodore, who wrote of what she saw when she looked at her farmer husband. It concludes:

“I see you healthy and happy, farming away

I see you ecstatic for the crop grown today.

I see you are grateful for everything in life

I see you are thankful that I stayed a farmer’s wife.”

Regional winning poems celebrated everything from the joy of a private garden (“Green is my garden / And black are my hands”) to the endurance of the family homestead (“More than pay, this bounty’s worth / Our character is shaped by this familial turf”). Poems are rated by the judges based on their relevance to the theme, the judges’ impression, the poetic structure, spelling and grammar, and originality. Stanley says that they have had poems that were written in the shape of something, such as a strawberry, or that were accompanied by illustrations.

The BCAFM received 120 entries last year, and Stanley hopes to exceed that number this year. Entries can be submitted online (http://fluidsurveys.com/s/fawpoetry2016), by e-mail (info@bcfarmersmarket.org), or by mail (Attn: Poetry Contest, BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, 203-2642 Main Street, Vancouver, B.C., V5T 3E6). The contest is open to all British Columbians, and entries must be received by midnight on Sunday, September 18.

“The contest highlights the diversity of agriculture in regions throughout the province,” says Stanley. “It’s a picture of how diverse this province is. We’re lucky in B.C. that we can grow a lot of things in different places.”