Marjorie Driscoll, executive director for the Workability Program, speaks at TEDx Parksville on Saturday, May 13. — Adam Kveton

Planting seeds of thought at TEDx Parksville

Speakers talk on innovation, aquaculture, teaching people to work and more

Parksville’s first TEDx speaking event saw Vancouver Island innovators bring their ideas worth spreading to Ballenas Secondary School on May 13.

With a theme of sustainability and innovation, the event saw 10 speakers share their big ideas with a crowd of more than 50 people.

Speakers ranged from Julie Pisani of the city of Parksville to Philip Perry of Coyote Cafe, and Ballenas graduate Jacob Stevenson discussing his tiny house YouTube series to name a few.

Marjorie Driscoll, the executive director of the Workability Program, discussed how the program is providing people with physical, medical and emotional barriers a stepping stone to the workforce.

The program runs several “pre-employment” activities through its tree farm in Nanoose Bay, its 2nd Chance Thrift Store and The Pie Factory.

Aimed at giving participants a realistic work experience while also learning what tasks participants are good at or most suited to, the program gets participants ready for the real thing, showing them what sort of work they should look for, the experience to get it and the confidence to apply, said Driscoll.

“We find people want to work,” she said. Having a job provides a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, but often, the people that the Workability Program looks to help are trying to get jobs that don’t fit with them, or that they aren’t ready for.

Part of Driscoll’s talk addressed the process of developing the Workability Program’s various businesses, and gave the audience pointers on how non-profit charities work.

Amy Armet with the Deep Bay Marine Station discussed the work the station is doing with shellfish farming.

Asking the audience to question what a “seed” is, she explained that baby oysters are described as seeds in aquaculture, and that there is a need for more local seed production.

She discussed how shellfish farming has less impact on the environment than land farming, and yet climate change, causing a rise in ocean temperature, is helping disease to spread and causing massive oyster die-off.

At the marine station, researchers are working on developing oysters that are more resilient to disease, and how to grow more oyster “seeds.”

The idea Clarke Gourlay of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks shared was that innovation is not inherently good. Innovation into chemical warefare, for instance, is bad. So it’s not enough to innovate. People need to innovate based on values. Otherwise we might “climb the ladder of success and find that we’re leaning against the wrong wall,” he said.

He went on to discuss how he sees his 90-acre Parksville farm as a shared habitat. While he and his family own the farm, it doesn’t mean he’ll do whatever he wants with it. Instead, being part of a shared habitat means making sacrifices and compromises for the betterment of the family members, staff, customers, cows, wild animals, plant life and everything else that shares it.

One of the results of that perspective was becoming the first SPCA certified dairy farm in B.C., he said, with an automatic cow-milking machine that lets the cows choose when they want to be milked.

“It’s completely voluntary,” he said. “The cows love it,” and they line up to use it, said Gourlay.

Graeme Nailor, one of the main organizers of the TEDx event, said feedback from the audience, speakers and the community has been strong.

He pointed out talks by Pisani, “who set the benchmark high with her talk on Innovative Collaboration and Watersheds,” Stevenson who said, “the value we place on consumerism impacts our ability to sustain a purposeful life,” and Leia Swanberg, who “gave a timely and personal talk on the role of surrogacy and the right of every woman to be a mother.”

“The range of talks and the passion and wisdom the speakers expressed really takes time to process and makes me appreciate the number of environmentally conscious innovators we have in our community,” he said.

As for the future of the event, Nailor said the planning committee will be meeting soon to discuss what’s next for TEDx Parksville.

YouTube videos of the speakers’ talks are expected to be posted in the coming weeks.