Two men unloading bales of hay from a pickup truck

Mark Vonesch 2: Supporting Cortes Island farmers

In the second of a series of programs about his running for Regional Director of Cortes Island, Mark Vonesch talks about growing up on a farm and what his rural background could mean when it comes to representing Cortes on the Strathcona Regional District Board.  

His family operated a dairy farm, with 50 cows, outside Olds, Alberta. Mark is the oldest of six children, which he jokes may have been a strategic move by his parents to have more help on the farm!

Back on the family farm – Photo courtesy

“You know, what I gained from that experience is a hard work ethic.  When crops need to be sown or hay needs to be made, or the cows need to be fed or milked, it needs to happen and  family has to step in and do that,” said Vonesch.

His appreciation of rural living grew after Vonesch came to Cortes Island about 2003, as a volunteer at the ‘Power of Hope’ Summer Arts Camp on Linnaea Farm. He was experimenting with engaging young people to use media production as a way to speak up about issues that they care about. 

“I volunteered for the summer and fell in love with Cortes Island and eventually moved here. I started  Reel Youth.  We have an office here. We have a staff in Vancouver and Cortes, and I’ve really made a life for myself here and just feel really privileged to be able to call this place home,” said Vonesch.

He served on the Board of Linnaea Farm for six years, as President, Vice President and a Director. 

“I think my involvement there really speaks to my farming roots, appreciation for people that work with the land, grow food and look after animals. They provide a really important and a growing essential service on this island, which is food security and locally produced food that is adaptable to climate change.”

Back in Alberta – Photo courtesy

As food costs continue to rise, he believes there will be more opportunities for local farmers to play a key role in the market. 

“I don’t think farmers get enough credit for the endless hours that they put in, and generally at a pretty low pay rate,” said Vonesch

“I think the role of Regional Director is to understand the island, speak to people and represent the island at the Regional District.”

This includes supporting local farmers.

“Being an advocate for buying local, for supporting our local farms, is one of the biggest things I can do. If we can increase the revenues generated on Cortes through food production, it makes sense for consumers, it makes sense for farmers and I’m gonna be a strong advocate for that.”

Top image credit: Mark Voenish (in truck) helping to make hay at Linnaea Farm – courtesy

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