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President Report 2016-2017 AGM

Written By Mandy Sandbach

It is so wild to sit here on the other end of this computer to type the Year end report for the LSLA. Firstly, I cannot believe that we have experience a full year together as a board and membership but secondly, it only feels like we are just getting started. The 2016/2017 year for the LSLA was an ending and a beginning of something yet to be created. In November of 2016 I found myself at the AGM for the LSLA with no prior involvement. I felt compelled to put my name foreword as a Presidential candidate and could feel the untapped potential and the metamorphosis happening with this well rounded and full of potential, non-profit organization. This experience was purely impulse in the largest way.

Here we are 11 months later and about to have our 2017/2018 AGM . This year started with an uncertainty of where we were headed. How we would move forward as a group or not. It was made apparent right from the start that this organization had experienced some discord and stumbling within its structure and membership. As the executive met for the first meeting, I could feel a sense of suspicion from some of the members. Who is this woman? What is she about? What could she possibly have to offer? I could feel relationships hardened by a past of drama and sometimes chaos. Yet, we all sat at the table and shared our truths. What we had experienced in the past within the LSLA, where we stood now and where we wanted to go. It wasn’t overly optimistic, in my experience.

We met then as a FULL board…. This was magical. There was as sense of potential and excitement as I invited the group to share their truth of why here? Why the LSLA? What are you here to contribute. A conversation that stands out and feels pivotal for me was the conversation about “doing” only what feels meaningful and self sourcing for each board member. I invited the group to consider not doing things out of obligation or roles or responsibility but only doing that which lit them up. That which felt like they were sharing their gifts. This was an offer to recreate their experience of the LSLA. Despite having history with “how” we have engaged with this group, we could choose very mindfully to engage differently moving forward. One of choice, gratitude and sharing. This seemed to start the year off with a greater intention and in my experience created a fertile ground for renewal as an organization.

I felt as though this year was a year of birthing new ideas, concepts, workshops, ways to reach our community and really fine tune our role in sustainability here in Southern Alberta. This year was about streamlining and re evaluating our past administrative practices in order to become more efficient providing more time and energy for our community and those “tasks” we loved. This year was about fostering and creating relationship within the sustainable community with our community partners like Environment Lethbridge, Zero Waste, Old Man watershed council, Helen Schuler nature center etc…. This was no small task but felt like great ease.

This year we re-created the website adding dimensions that included all of our initiatives and committees. We created a more visible presence online and with our community by advertising more events in a consistent basis. We fine tuned the Facebook page and added more clear points of contact for all of our initiatives. Developed specific email accounts and streamlined the email process adding a sign up list online to encourage more community and memberships. We added an online feature for membership registration making memberships more accessible. In November 2016 our Facebook likes for our page were around 200 people and as of today, is 426. The point is…we have made growth and connection with ease this past year. We have grounded ourselves in the grass roots initiatives that engage and provide knowledge and support to our community. This is what I feel makes a successful and sustainable organization.

This year we offered an amazing and first of its kind, opportunity for hands on workshops and learning events. We brought in experts to teach not only our board members, but membership and community alike. The LSLA is the “go to” for hands on, grass roots, sustainable skills here in Southern Alberta. We hosted too many workshops and events to list but have partnered with a number of our community sponsors both business and non profit.. This has allowed us to provide education and knowledge for our community in a consistent and accessible fashion.

This year was the first year that the LSLA applied for grant monies to support their initiatives and community interests. The LSLA was successful in being granted a $4000 grant in support of the Ecole La Verendrye Edible Forest Learning Garden project. In June 2016 we successfully planned, prepped, planted and installed the Edible Forest Learning Garden with the help of numerous community members, LSLA members, school staff, kids and parents, and community organizations. This Food Forest is the FIRST and only public Food Forest in Lethbridge. This Forest Garden allows the LSLA to continue to work with and create a variety of workshops and future projects in conjunction with our relationships to the school. Way TO GO!!!

Applefest! 2017 had its most successful year to date and not only expanded its reach but tripled its attendance. Dil, as coordinator for Applefest! ,Created and amazing environment for teamwork. She was skilled and organized and really genuinely wanting to be there. Applefest! 2017 was toted by our sponsors, vendors, musicians, volunteers and community members as an important festival for the Lethbridge area. This years festival set the tone for further expansion of not only the festival itself, but for the Fruit Rescue Program.

The Fruit Rescue Program also enjoyed an ease and flow with its expansion this year. Pat, Jennifer and Peter worked very hard at organizing, picking, juicing and canning. This is an understatement I am sure. While I was not able to do much picking myself, I do see the organization and hard work required to just pick….If nothing else…just pick and process. This program offered a joint workshop in September with Campus Roots in the form of canning apples. The Fruit Rescue program has streamlined and created more points of communication to further expand the well sought after program for the 2018 growing season. This group will be applying for and raising funds for the Fruit Rescue tools needed. The Fruit Rescue program donated its time and energies to picking, processing and canning apple juice which they then sold at Love and Records. It was identified that this program will expand as a source of revenue for the programs next year.

Permaculture Lethbridge was in its infancy this year, starting the year with the old name of the Urban Farming Guild. A name change proposal left us with a new and expanded name of Permaculture Lethbridge. My own experience and love for permaculture definitely colored the activities of the LSLA this year. Creating numerous opportunities for learning and engagement around a variety of topics in alignment with permaculture principals. Bringing the folks from ReGenerate Design to Lethbridge to host a food forestry workshop and info session is what started our year off. This spiralled into the Food Forest project at Ecole La Verendrye and a continued relationship with the Nature Center. PL finalized its role with the Kinsman Community Garden relieving the responsibilities of the garden to the London Road Neighbourhood Association. Thank you Charlie for this hard work. The garden is back in the hands of those who live there and love it fully. As of recent, Permaculture Lethbridge committee has gathered to create its mission statement and guiding principals.. This group has gained traction and will certainly be expanding into the 2017/2018 year offering numerous hands on, accessible workshops, and knowledge sharing with our community and membership.

The LSLA Eco Village took a turn this year as Gilles stepped in with his full attention and detail. Gilles’s wish at the last AGM was to step down as president so that he may focus his energies where he most loved to. The building of a communal living space. This year, after a transformation and name change, the eco village initiative was renamed the Turin Agrihood. Gilles worked with farmer, Michael Beck, to continue the market garden in Turin. They community held a day on the farm with music, veggies and local participation on site. In October 2017 they will be hosting another canning event in Turin. Gilles private business, Geo studios, has continued to support the LSLA at a variety events in the form of housing us in the “dome”. This is no small feat to erect the dome and I hope that we will continue to have access to the dome as Gilles business grows and expands. The Turin Agrihood will move with him into realization. This initiative seems to have morphed this year and may be making a transition out of the LSLA. The LSLA will always be supportive and involved in all that is transpiring in Turin and will most certainly inform that process.

I cannot express how much depth and meaning my involvement with the LSLA has brought to my life this year. I feel like we were all a bunch of babies moving into toddler stage together as we all learned, defined, redefined and chose together. I am so very clear that involvement in any organization. Group, family or circle needs to be one of choice and deep meaning….not obligation or role or responsibility. I must be free of undeclared expectation in order to be genuine and real. I am clear that this “organization” or the “LSLA” is not a thing outside of us….but rather; It is an expression of each of our unique essences and ebbs and flows as we do. “Organization” and “LSLA” is a nominalization. You cannot put A pound of the “LSLA” into the trunk of your car…It is a generalization used to describe an experience of everyone who is there. It is who we each are or are not. It changes as we do. What is meaningful one year may not be the next and leaving room for this organic unfolding keeps the expression of the LSLA alive and real. It will continue to morph and change as it should. If we hold tightly to a fixed group of rules or dogma….we stifle the potential of ourselves and eventually the “organization”.

This is how I approach my “role” as president and I invited each of you to look toward the next year in the LSLA as an opportunity for personal and communal evolution. Where are the ways you would like to share your own unique gifts and talents. Where does it feel meaningful to share your resource of time to grow the potential of the WHOLE? This will be unique to each person. Each person will have to choose over and over again, is this meaningful? do I want to be here? Do I want to be doing this right now? The opportunity goes on and on and on. Thank you to all of you who showed up in person or via the ether to share your gifts and skills and time with me. I look forward to creating and re creating our role and reach in this community for the 2017/2018 year.

Sincerely Yours,

Mandy Sandbach

President of the Lethbridge Sustainable Living Association

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