The desire for community can come from many places.
For Marc Doll and Jen Banks Doll, it initially came from their shared vision to create what Marc calls a ‘future-focused community’. It was a vision strong and compelling enough to convince them, in 2016, to pack up their family in Calgary and search for a new life.
In the end, after almost two years of travel—which included visits to dozens of farms modeling the kind of regenerative, sustainable farming practices they dreamed of— they found themselves on Quadra Island. In comparison to what Marc and Jen saw on some other islands, it fit most of the items on a long wish-list for their envisioned home, particularly the feeling of being a ‘nascent’ community.
“We’re builders,” says Marc. “We looked at a lot of the other islands, and they were already built. There's so much going on, the connections are there, there's a thousand farms and enterprises going on. That was one of the other things that drew us here—there's so much potential to go forward.”
Inspired by the potential on Quadra, Marc and Jen were able to draw on the experience of the Quadra farming community, including sourcing livestock, and advice on how to interact with the land. And yet, even with their systems “more or less” working on Foot Forward Forest Farm (as they ended up calling their permaculture farming enterprise), Marc and Jen realized they were ready for more community. “We decided to go back to our old ways, and really participate in community building.”
For Marc, a former high school teacher and realtor, this meant back to the intellectually stimulating side-hustle of political organizing and activism; for Jen, that meant capacity-building and organizational consulting for government and non-government organizations. And that led to learning about RIEP.
Recalls Marc: “[In early 2023], I was invited to speak at the Forum, and initially I had some reticence, largely because of the name. I didn't really have a sense of the islands as being a network, and without having done any research, I was thinking it would be a partnership of chambers of commerce, complaints about property taxes, and how do we get more, bigger, better, higher profits. And that's not what I engage in.”
Marc chuckles, recalling the sales job that followed for his eventual participation in a showcase panel on Islands Food Resilience. “‘Alright, so this is a more interesting organization than I thought’. And then attending the Forum was fantastic.”
Ultimately, Marc realized that his family’s experience on Quadra with Foot Forward Forest Farm was not so different from what was happening in a much larger community like Gabriola or Salt Spring Island.
“The story here on Quadra is very similar to the story on just about every island that was represented at the Forum. It was really only by attending the Forum that I started to think about all the rural islands being a voice—that we're all kind of in the same situation, whether we're in the Islands Trust or strictly within a regional district, our voices are often lost to the larger municipalities to which we're attached.”
“Making those connections is incredibly necessary—I learned how, on these islands, we're all in the same boat. I am so excited by RIEP— a valuable organization that has unlimited potential going forward.”
To learn more, visit Foot Forward Forest Farm.
“It was really only by attending the Forum that I started to think about all the rural islands being a voice. Making those connections is incredibly necessary—I learned how, on these islands, we're all in the same boat. I am so excited by RIEP— a valuable organization that has unlimited potential going forward.” - Marc Doll, Co-Owner, Foot Forward Forest Farm