Organic Islands Creator Feels the Earth Beneath Her Feet

July 3, 2008 Updated: July 11, 2008
The idyllic Glendale Gardens and Woodlands is the site of the biggest outdoor green festival in Canada. The grounds include 6 acres of gardens in their natural setting, filled with rare and native trees and plants, as well as a cultivated Zen garden and w (Andrea Hayley/The Epoch Times)
The idyllic Glendale Gardens and Woodlands is the site of the biggest outdoor green festival in Canada. The grounds include 6 acres of gardens in their natural setting, filled with rare and native trees and plants, as well as a cultivated Zen garden and w (Andrea Hayley/The Epoch Times)

The driving force behind the biggest outdoor green festival in Canada is Victoria's Deb Morse, director of Organic Islands Event Promotions.

The upcoming "Organic Islands Festival and Sustainability Expo" at the idyllic Glendale Gardens and Woodland in Victoria features over 125 exhibitors and is expected to attract over 7,000 people.

Exhibits include local goods for sale, activities for children, high profile panel discussions, fun activities, non-profits, health and wellness, grass roots activism, local chefs and real farmers.

Part of Morse's inspiration for Organic Islands comes from the idea that so much of what we really need is right in our own back yards.

Morse spent her childhood on an acreage in Hamilton in a rural area surrounded by farmers. Her back yard consisted of "fruit trees, berries—blackberries, raspberries, mulberries—our own well water, and wild land. It was idyllic."

When she moved to Victoria from Toronto as an adult, she was surprised to see cows in her neighborhood. She describes her amazement at discovering the wealth of local goods and the various initiatives that were literally in her back yard.

"Many people had been doing great things for years before I came along." Epoch Times Photo

After graduating from the University of Victoria she created a job for herself organizing the annual festival. She sees herself as a bridge, bringing communities together.

At the festival, "you meet the people behind the products and make the connection with them, you learn their story, you learn what really happened to farmer Joe's asparagus crop."

Organic Islands is for everyone, says Morse. When she started the festival in 2005 she considered herself pretty mainstream. "I wasn't professionally working in it, and I wasn't an environmental activist, so I was like a lot of people."

In designing the festival, Morse says she wanted to "build something that would speak to me" and create an event where "people could find out about all this stuff in one place."

Festival goers can expect to find farmers, gardeners, and others in direct contact with the earth. "When was the last time you felt the grass beneath your feet?"

Situating the festival outdoors was enormously important to Morse.

"The location works hand and glove with what we are putting in there. People get moved in a way. The location together with the community that is there works synergistically to create an experience that can transform people."

The outdoor locale also appeals to families. "The kids can run around and have fun, and you can still enjoy it. It doesn't matter if the kids are loud, it's not a problem."

Morse is the mother of an adopted daughter, Aliyah Shan-Hui, which has made the idea of preserving the natural environment for future generations more compelling for her.

Morse works almost year-round on the show, and manages 100 volunteers for the two-day event.

A highlight of the festival is sure to be the "mini-event within the bigger festival" which is essentially a sustainability challenge. On arrival, attendees will receive a guide with a printed "passport" outlining the challenge.

As participants go through the 11 activities learning about different aspects of living sustainably, they collect stamps. At the conclusion, the participant makes an action pledge which then qualifies for a draw for the Grand Prize: "Living La Vida Eco."

"The idea is that we want to create change," says Morse. However, she is quick to add that she does not want people to feel overwhelmed. She calls the sustainability challenge "grass roots activism."

"It is making it accessible to people and narrowing it down."

Morse believes people have had enough of "boring doom and gloom messages." She says she wants to motivate people through fun and inspiration by associating environmental change with joy, fun and celebration.

The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of the Organic Islands Festival and Sustainability Expo to be held on July 5-6 in Victoria, BC. For more information call 250-658-8148 or visit www.organicislands.ca