I did not get to where I am in farming – the beginning stages of running a mixed vegetable farm and business – on my own. Not by a long shot. I got here over years, with the help of many. I got here with much continued love and encouragement from friends and family, and also with the mentorship, guidance, and friendship of the farmers I have worked for over the years, and I would like to take a couple of moments to honour those inspiring and hard working farmers who have helped pave my way.
My farming journey began in earnest at Madrona Farm, working under the ever-energetic, funny, and fast talking Dave Chambers. I spent two seasons working with Dave and Nathalie, and this was the first time that I considered farming as a career option for myself. It was the first time that I realised I enjoyed picking spinach by hand in the cool mornings of spring (or the downright cold mornings of November) enough that I might want to get into this field long term. It was the first time I realised how much I loved being a part of connecting people to their food, and how the frosty mornings and sweltering afternoons only made that connection more meaningful. It was the first time I got hooked on amazing produce. Maybe it was the charisma of Farmer Dave and Nathalie, maybe it was the view from those upper fields of Madrona, maybe it was the carrots, but you could say that this is where I caught the farming bug that I’ve yet to shake.
Following my years at Madrona, I found myself at Makaria Farm, working for the incredible and hard working Brock and Heather McLeod. This is where I truly decided farming was something I wanted to do with my life – and not at some later date, years in the future, but right then, and that it was something I hoped I never stopped. Why did this revelation hit me at that time? I believe it’s because I worked harder than I ever had in my life at Makaria Farm, I was pushed and challenged, I cried, I worked until dark and beyond sometimes. And still, I loved my days more than I ever had. Because in addition to what was hard, there was laughter, there was camaraderie, there was encouragement, there were so many beautiful moments in each day. Brock and Heather believed in my abilities in a way that made me believe I was capable of more than I had ever thought possible. And isn’t it true that often it is the things that challenge us the most that, if we can rise to meet those challenges, shape us, and help us grow in unimaginable ways?
In September of 2017, Brock passed away after a multi year battle with kidney cancer. I miss him greatly, and can’t thank him and Heather enough for being such key people in my farming journey. When I left Makaria at the end of the 2014 season, my body and soul were weary from work, and I left for smaller pastures (Makaria was going on 20 acres or so of mixed vegetables at that time). I felt our farming visions were no longer as aligned as they had once seemed, though I never once received anything less than full support from Brock and Heather, and I am ever grateful to them for all they taught me, for the pub nights, and for their kind and generous hearts.
In 2015 and 2016 I worked at Rootdown Farm for the amazing Simone McIsaac and Sarah Stewart. I have written several earlier blog posts about Rootdown, and how important my time there felt. It was at Rootdown that I first experienced a size and scale of farming that really resonated with me (approximately 2 acres in production, some tractor work, but most things still done by hand), and learned much in the way of technique and style that I am now currently putting into practice. It was the first time I had worked on a farm owned and operated solely by women, and it was where I first glimpsed a work-life balance that had always seemed unattainable in farming. In many ways, Simone and Sarah restored my faith in my ability to keep farming long term, and instilled confidence in me that I could run my own farm
There are others, of course, fellow farmers and mentors who continue to support and inspire. There are too many to name really, and the list seems to always be growing, but Robin Tunnicliffe of Sea Bluff Farm, Naomi Martz of Four Beat Farm, Chelsea Abbott of Lenora Bee Apiary, Elia Zanon of Manna Farm, Alyssa and David of Plenty Wild Farms, Heather Ramsay of Umi Nami Farm – to name just a few – are part of the incredible support network I am so proud to be a part of.
And it all leads to this: where a year ago today I was negotiating to sign a lease for 2 acres of land with Lohbrunner Community Farm Co-op just west of Victoria, BC. Now, I am a farming member of that co-op, helping to steward this farmland in a unique and innovative model of land management. I have developed friendships and supportive working relationships with other farmers and members here. My farm, Sweet Acres Farm, and Vitality Farm (also operating on leased land at Lohbrunner) are launching a joint CSA Harvest Share Program, and selling at Farmers Markets together. I truly feel I am rooting myself down in this community, in a way I have craved for years, and am part of something much bigger than me as an individual. I am here, the first seeds of 2018 have been started, the great wheels of another farming season are in motion, and I firmly believe I wouldn’t be here were it not for my personal farming giants, those whose shoulders I stand on, and who I thank, wholeheartedly.