Teachers in the Nicola Valley were back on the picket lines Monday as the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the province continued negotiations.

Teachers around the province have been on full-scale strike since the end of June.

The return to the picket line comes as the usual first day of school looms after Labour Day.

“We are down to the crunch, and we need the public and the government to be aware that we want a settlement this week so we can go back to schools next week and teach,” Nicola Valley Teachers’ Union president Peter Vogt said in a press release.

Volunteers needed for homeless count

ASK Wellness is doing its fifth annual homeless count on Thursday, Sept. 11.

The count involves volunteers offering supports and supplies to those living on the streets.

The data collected in the count is used to monitor trends in homelessness and as baseline data by the province.

The society is also looking for donations of clothing (including socks, tuques, gloves and blankets), food (bottled water and grocery cards), and hygiene products (including deodorant, toothpaste, nail clippers and feminine hygiene products).

Anyone who’s interested in donating items for the count can contact Stacy Wormell, ASK’s youth and adult street outreach worker, at 315-0098 or at ASK’s main Merritt office at 2151 Granite Ave.

Homeless counts are conducted in many cities around the country. They are intended to raise awareness of homelessness and offer support to communities with homeless populations.

The society is doing its volunteer training on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at the ASK Wellness Society office.

The count also includes a hot lunch for volunteers and those who need a warm meal at noon at the Fireside Centre, Wormell said.

Farmers market poetry contest open

If you love the Nicola Valley Farmers’ Market and you’ve got a poetic streak, the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets has the contest for you.

British Columbians are invited to show their appreciation for farmers markets in writing in honour of Farmers Appreciation Week, which runs Sept. 8 to 15.

The second annual Ode to a Farmer poetry contest is open to all writers and their best agriculture-inspired poems, be they haikus, ballads, sonnets or limericks.

The grand prize is good for $150 to the farmers market of the winner’s choice.

The contest judges will also pick a winner from each region with the association. Regional winners will get a $50 gift certificate to the market of their choice.

The contest is open until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 7. Submissions can be sent in via email or mail to the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. For more details about the contest, visit bcfarmersmarket.org.

The contest will be judged by agriculture journalist Tamara Leigh, thecanadaproject author Renee Sarojini Saklikar and agricultural reporter Ronda Payne.

This year marks the fifth annual Farmers Appreciation Week.

The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets represents 125 markets.