Posts Tagged ‘farm’

Turkey Raising

I have been a vegetarian for about 6.5 years. I probably would have been one earlier, since it had become such a fad, but I personally hate to do anything because it’s a fad, so I had to find my own reasons. And the more I learned about the environmental impact of meat, the amount of energy it takes to produce 1 kg of meat, and the really horrid conditions of factory-raised meat animals, the easier it was for me to make that decision. And not being able to afford locally and ethically raised meats, vegetarianism was the clear choice.

That being said, the more I got into farming and sustainable food systems, I knew that eventually the question would come up again. I believe that a sustainable farm needs animals on it, to help with soil fertility, pest management, and farmer happiness. And the reality is, it’s not economically feasible to have non-productive animals on a farm, so animals need to have other purposes, whether it is dairy or egg production, or meat. I understand this, and feel myself on secure moral and environmental grounds to say that local, ethical and sustainably raised meat is an important part of a sustainable food system.

So, having spent the summer on a small-scale organic farm, raising pigs and lambs for meat, and chickens for eggs, I took on a project for myself. Turkeys!

When I became a vegetarian, one thing I really missed was eating turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which has much more to do with the traditions and family than it actually does about eating turkey. And since I know that every year, my family will eat a turkey at these holidays, my thought is that if I can raise these turkeys myself in a way that I agree with, then I will have no problem eating them come the holidays. So I proposed to raise 2 turkeys at Rootdown this summer, from chick to table.

June

1 week old chicks, exploring their new home

1 week old chicks, exploring their new home

A bit later than would have been ideal, we got our chicks towards the end of June. Because we were only getting 2, we piggy-backed onto a neighbour’s order. The turkeys were your typical white meat birds, not a heritage breed.

Chicks are hatched in hatcheries, in this case one in Alberta, and are shipped in boxes. Because a chick ingests the remaining egg yolk just before hatching, they can survive for up to 2 days without food and water, allowing them to be shipped in boxes. Certainly, in a lot of cases, a few will die in transit, but in our case, the chicks arrived in good health.

Never having raised any kind of poultry before, I tried to prepare with lots of reading, and I was very nervous. I set up a small pen with cardboard walls, straw floor and a heat lamp. I worried that they wouldn’t be able to eat or drink, because many things I’d read said turkey chicks are pretty dumb, and sometimes can’t figure out how to eat and drink, but these guys did fine right from the start. They made little panicky cheeping sounds when I would go in to look at them, so mostly I left them alone.

Being let outside for the first time

Being let outside for the first time

July

As the weeks went by, the turkey chicks grew bigger, and after a few weeks, we opened the doors to the house during the day so they could access a fenced-in pasture. They were so nervous at first! But they quickly grew to love being outdoors, so much so that most nights, I had to physically chase them back into their house for the night – not as bright as chickens, who will go in on their own.

The turkeys provided their share of entertainment at the farm. When the 2 lambs, whose fenced pen was moved every couple of days to new grass, ended up next to the turkey pen, they all seemed to recognize some kind of friendship between them, and they would greet each other through their fences.

First farm friends

First farm friends


 

September

The turkeys continued to grow happily throughout the summer without incident. Then, one day when I was over at a neighbouring farm for the day, the smaller of the turkeys was found dead in the house in the morning. We had no idea what had happened, but from discussions with other farmers, this is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, two of the other people who had raised chicks from the same batch had each lost one of their turkeys. We called it Spontaneous Poultry Death, it happened with the chickens as well. Weak genes were often discussed as a problem with hybrid breeds.

When the one turkey died, the other one was understandably distressed, now finding himself alone in his pen, and he flew over the fence and wandered the farm. To keep him company, he was put in with our flock of laying hens. The original result was rather like the Pixar short film, For the Birds – like a big, dumb bird trying to make friends with the “cool kids.” But after a few days, everyone got used to their new living situation, and while they didn’t exactly make friends, the chickens got used to the big ugly duckling in their midst, and the turkey started to think he was a chicken.

Making new friends

Making new friends

October

After the weeks on the farm, the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived, and the day I dreaded. I tried to prepare by watching YouTube videos on humane turkey killing, which gave me an idea of what it would be like. I will spare the details, but we decided to decapitate the turkey, which was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever had to do. Having never killed anything bigger than a cockroach (which, in Cameroon, were pretty giant), this was a big step. In retrospect, I probably should have started with a fish…

After the horrible part was done, we plucked and prepared the turkey, which was not as bad as I expected, although long and tedious. I can certainly understand how hand preparing poultry is a very long process, and would be terrible if you had a lot to process! The turkey came in at 14.5lbs.

Thanksgiving

Those many weeks of turkey raising finally brought us to the Thanksgiving dinner table. I left the cooking to more experienced hands. At the end of the day, 8 of us came around the table for a wonderful harvest feast with the bounty of the summer’s work.

One day, I would do this again, because my family will always eat turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I like to know that the animals have been raised in an ethical, humane and environmentally friendly fashion. This was an eye-opening learning experience!

2014-10-12 17.49.48 2014-10-12 18.02.25

Farm Life

So we’ve been at Rootdown Organic Farm now for a month and a half, learning the ropes of a small scale mixed farm, with about 2.5 acres in cultivation with mixed vegetables, 20 pigs and two lambs being raised for meat, and about 40 laying hens. It has been 6 weeks of growth and adjustment, with my body learning to work much harder than it has ever had to before, living with my wife in a small trailer while also working side by side, dealing with being somewhere a bit remote, though not too much so. It’s been an adventure so far!

Outdoor living space

Outdoor living space

Living in Style

As mentioned, our quarters on the farm are small but pretty great. We have a trailer to live in, with an outdoor heated shower and composting toilet, and we’ve made our “yard” fun with the addition of a mosquito net tent (for evening beers), a mini hoophouse for our own tomatoes anhébs, and a trellis for peas.

View from the shower

View from the shower

Although it took a bit of adapting at first, I’ve come to love the outdoor shower, with its mountain views. And I’ve always wanted a composting toilet (what a horrible waste of treated water to use it to flush human waste!). The small trailer also took some getting used to, but luckily we spend most of our time outdoors.

Farm Life

I’ve been updating the Rootdown farm blog, so most of my updates on the farm are there. But overall, I’ve found that I most enjoy those rewarding tasks like transplanting and harvesting, and I don’t mind weeding too much. I have my favorite crops – broccoli, squash, kale, carrots, beans – that I enjoy dealing with, and some that are my lesser preferred, like salad greens (I totally understand the appeal of growing them for early harvest and high value, but man, they are a lot of work!).

We work 5 days a week, and just this week had our first market day. Rootdown attends just one market a week, the Whistler farmers market. Otherwise, we sell to restaurants, grocery stores, and have a CSA that will start at the end of June. These diversified marketing outlets is giving me a chance to see the benefits and drawbacks of each, which will continue as we go through the season.

Highlights

Not unexpectedly, the animals are a highlight for me. Of course, the farm dogs are loveable, but I also find the chickens hilarious and the lambs sweet. Although I’ve been a vegetarian for six years, I expect that will change by the end of this season, because I appreciate that animals and humans have a culinary interdependence, and an animal that has had a good life and an ethical death overall probably has less of an impact on this earth than the tofu and lentils that I eat so much of. But that’s a debate for a different day. For now, I am appreciating the sustenance of the delicious eggs provided by our hens, and acknowledge that while I find the lambs cute and the pigs kind of funny, they will one day be someone’s dinner, if not mine.

Piglets!

Piglets!

 

Final Project – Green Pea Farm

Final assignment of the UBC Farm Practicum program – create a farm plan! The following is the assignment I put together, a visualizing and planning of a farm that I hope will one day be in my future. Although not a completely exhaustive project, it was as detailed as I was able to make it. pic

This is an excessively long blog post – but I want to have this project documented here as a conclusion to my Farm School.

Long Term Vision

In the long term vision for my farm, I envision that it will be:
  • 2-5 acres under cultivation, growing mixed organic vegetable crops.
  • Incorporation of goats and chickens in a rotation to clear land and for fertilizer, also harvesting milk and eggs, and bees for pollination and honey production.
  • Perennial crops including blueberries, hazelnuts, tree fruit, other berries, asparagus.
  • A closed loop system requiring minimal off-farm inputs, potentially growing grain to feed chickens.

Valuesenvironment_eng

Environment. The farm will be environmentally sustainable, contributing positively to wildlife diversity, soil and water health, topsoil regeneration, carbon sequestration, and have a minimal carbon footprint.
Community. The farm will contribute to the health and well-being of the wider community by working in collaboration with other farmers, community members, schools, and other organizations. The farm should have a positive overall contribution to the community and be fully integrated.
Healthy, sustainable food. The farm will provide local, organic and environmentally sustainable food to individuals and families.
Integrated farming system. Off-farm inputs of fertilizers, soil amendments and pest-controls will be kept to a minimum by incorporating various aspects of organic, biodynamic and permaculture techniques.
Self-sustaining. The farm will be financially viable and not require off-farm income in order to function.

From Education to Implementation –

the 5 Year Plan

Five Year Goals

  • To effectively use production, marketing and distribution techniques to become financially self-sustaining and profitable for the farmers involved.
  • To gradually integrate animals, including chickens, bees and goats, into the farming rotation system.
  • To start off cultivating a high diversity of crops, and eventually focus on key crops that grow well and are profitable.

The first 2 years of the 5 year plan are education – the 2013 practicum program, and the 2014 season spent as an apprentice on a farm.

Farm Production

This chart represents the best estimates I can make at present about what the first 3 years on my own farm might look like. The premise of this farm is a CSA-based model, which would take advantage of a customer based of friends, family and acquaintances at first, then grow from there, and would allow for a certain amount of cash flow necessary to get a new farm up and running.

Year 1permaculture-image
  • Lease – year by year
  • 1-1.5 acres cultivated
  • 25 share CSA
  • 15 week CSA
  • $500/share
  • 20 laying hens from pullets
  • Establishing soil fertility, experimenting with crops, learning about what works well on farm
Year 2
  • Lease – year by year
  • 1.5-2 acres cultivated
  • 40 share CSA
  • 15 week CSA
  • $500/share
  • 50 laying hens from pullets
  • Introduce 2 milking goats
  • Expanding on 1st year knowledge to focus on crops that work well, improve on crops that have not worked as well, use marketing experience
Year 3
  • Lease – year by yeargreen earth
  • 2 acres cultivated
  • 60 share CSA
  • 15 week CSA
  • $500/share
  • 90 laying hens from pullets or chicks, potentially hatching chicks
  • Improving animal care and integration, establishing closed-loop system

Production Plan

Although my project went into more detail, annual crops that I plan to include at my farm include beans, broccolini, beets, carrots, cucumbers, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, cauliflower, salad mix, tomatoes, and turnips.

Crop Rotation Plan

Crop Rotation Plan

Marketing, Finances and Human Resources Plan2013-09-28 11.28.29

Green Pea Farm would be based on a Community Supported Agriculture model, planning for 1-2 deliveries per week (each to half the customers), with centralized pick-up locations. In order to get an idea of what my CSA should look like, I surveyed family and friends for their opinions, and received a variety of helpful responses.

Based on feedback from the survey participants – who had varying degrees of familiarity with farming and CSA style marketing – I learned that it would be best if the farm was able to offer different share sizes, including ones that would cater to 1 or 2 member households, for whom a usual full CSA share would be too much. I also learned that people want staples (carrots, onions, potatoes), but they also want things that are hard to grow in their own gardens, such as eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. And an important aspect is to find ways to encourage CSA members to visit the farm, whether it is to pick up their produce, or help out, or just visit.

In terms of human resources, my plan is to keep the farm at a scale that I could run on my own with a farm partner. It would also include labour from volunteers, community members, and friends who stop by!

For the sake of brevity, I will not put the numbers that I worked out (also because I’m not confident in their accuracy), but the financial breakdown would be structured in a way that the farm would make minimal income by the 2nd year, and a higher net profit by third year. The first year’s expenses would be funded through private loans from my own savings, and cash flow would depend on CSA share sales.

SWOT Analysis

No plan would be complete without the beloved SWOT Analysis!

Strengths2013-05-03 10.51.56

  • Farming education
  • Background in planning, coordination
  • Network development
  • Skills and knowledge areas
  • CSA model capitalizes on current network, increases cash flow, good for start up farm
  • Area has number of organic farming mentors
  • Model can be very environmentally sustainable, financially stable

Weaknesses

  • No family in farming (minimal support)
  • Expensive to access land long-term (own)
  • Limited growth in CSA-only model
  • CSA means must maintain high diversity
  • Model relies on frequent trips to Vancouver, high labour inputs
  • Lacking key skills in building, machinery
  • Single market outlet risky in long term
  • No current credit rating; high start up costs

Opportunities2013-07-20 09.31.23

  • Take advantage of current network of friends, family
  • Demand exists for CSA shares, in particular one targeted to 1 or 2 people
  • Growing trend of organic food, farmers markets, local food movement
  • Climate change/peak oil causing increase in attention to food security

Threats

  • Potentially limited opportunities in area
  • Want to avoid directly competing with other organic farms in area
  • Loss of stable income/benefits, health risks
  • Changes in precipitation, water levels, weather due to climate change
  • Outside threats to economic viability (i.e. prices, cost of living, input costs)
  • Changing tastes and trends

Skills

Strengths and Skills Gained

  • Willingness to work hard
  • Education background
  • Basic knowledge of plant biology, soil science, harvesting techniques, marketing, organic standards
  • Hands-on growing and land-care experience
  • Overview of many types of farms, to narrow down what I want my farm to be

To Work On

  • Soil science & composting
  • Better understanding of organic certification standards
  • Always in need of more hands-on growing
  • Animal raising experience
  • Working with less mechanization
  • Construction & vehicle maintenance

Reflections

Why Farming?2013-06-29 11.02.59

I have been looking for a long time to find a way to act on my personal values and interest in environment, sustainability, food security and conservation. Small-scale, mixed organic farming, incorporating animals, pollinators, composting and perennials into a closed-loop farm system, is a great way to put these interests to use.

On What I’ve Learned in the Practicum

This practicum was completely invaluable for me. When I started, I knew that I had a passion for growing food to be more sustainable, and that I enjoyed working outdoors with my hands. Throughout the practicum, I’ve been able to test my abilities, see how I felt after physical work, and explore the many interpretations of organic farming to determine what would work best for me. I have learned a lot about myself, what I want for the future, and what I have to offer. I have also gained an appreciation for the fact that farming is a decades-long learning process, and that every year I can only learn more and gain more skills, and that the key is to always be reading, and to find mentors in the farming community to learn from.

2013-11-01 01

More Farm Tours

Wow, have I been doing a lot of farm tours the past little while! I want to see as much as I can before the end of the season, so have been taking advantage of every opportunity. Here are a few of the not-so-urban farms I have visited in the last while.

Klippers Organics

Klippers crops in the hot, dry, fertile Okanagan

Klippers crops in the hot, dry, fertile Okanagan

Klippers Organics is located in Cawston, in the Okanagan. We visited at the end of August, and the heat was incredible, at least for my west coast self. With that heat, though, comes some definite growing benefits, with field tomatoes going crazy and endless crates of peaches and plums. One of the owners, Annamarie, was kind enough to share hours of her knowledge and experience, while we helped peel and pit blanched peaches, to be frozen for later jamming.

I have long been familiar with the Klippers booth at the Vancouver farmers’ markets, which is always in a prominent location, and always features a wide variety of items long after most of the coastal farms have finished for the season. They farm about 40 acres of mixed vegetables and perennial orchards. Our tour of the farm showed how they have grown over the years, expanding with owned and leased land. They work with about 9 apprentices for the season, who live at the farm, a great opportunity to get a lot of hands-on experience and responsibility.

One thing that sticks out for me whenever I drive through this area is the water – how is it, in a desert, that there are so many vineyards and farms growing so well? I made the assumption that water use was unsustainable and unnatural, because it is not obvious. But I learned that the underground water is rather plentiful, and that is the source for all of the area. Now the very green vineyards make a bit more sense…

Crisp Organics2013-09-07 18.49.34 Crisp Organics

For another Young Agrarians tour and potluck, I went to Crisp Organics, an 11 acre farm in Abbotsford that grows year round, with a large abundance of the west coast-friendly brassicas like kale. Two hoophouses grow tomatoes and seedlings, and the rest of the fields are rows of mixed organic vegetable crops. Andrew toured us around, and described how he has made this piece of land very successful in just 4 years. His success seems to be in abundance, and intensive planning to have crops throughout the year. Many of his leaves seemed to have been battling with hungry critters (very holey), but there was still a great variety of market quality produce.

One of my favourite parts of visiting Crisp was the opportunity to camp overnight and get up early to walk around the mist-covered fields. I look forward to the day when I live on a farm and get to do this more often!

Zaklan Heritage Farm

Doug & Gemma at Zaklan Heritage Farm

Doug & Gemma at Zaklan Heritage Farm

I met Doug and Gemma, who farm Zaklan Heritage Farm, at the Crisp tour, and wanted to make a point to go see their farm. They cultivate 1.5 acres within the 8 acres of Zaklan family land, with mixed organic vegetables and 99 laying hens.

The land has been in the Zaklan family since 1928, and has kept its farmland integrity, completely surrounded by Surrey suburban houses. This is the second season that Doug and Gemma have been farming the land, and they are expanding the amount of land they grow on each year. With the influence of their UBC farm training apparent, they grow mixed vegetables, and sell at the Surrey farmer’s market and through a CSA.

These two are great role models for people like me, trying to see what it would be like to run a small-scale mixed organic farm. I enjoyed the opportunity to see them at work, tour their farm, and discuss things like organic certification, business planning, and the future of farming, while pulling out tomato plants in their hoophouse.

Creative trellising

Creative trellising

Urban Farm Tours

I’ve had many opportunities recently to visit some of the awesome urban farms in Vancouver lately. Many of these tours have been organized as part of a tour/potluck series by Young Agrarians, and have been great chances to not only see cool farms, but meet some of the amazing people that are part of the food revolution happening here and everywhere. Definitely check them out!

City Beet Farm

City Beet Farm is a funky farm set up, run by two young women in their first year of independent farming. They cultivate 8 front yard spaces in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver, and move around mainly by bicycle. Working mainly in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model, they seem to be doing pretty well in their first year. Great example of how food can be grown on land in the city, look amazing, and feed people!

Getting a lot of good info from Tessa at Farmers on 57th

Getting a lot of good info from Tess at Farmers on 57th

Farmers on 57th

The half acre cultivated by Farmers on 57th is a hotbed of productivity. Although there have been more in the past, one farmer, Tess, is running the farm this year. They sell through a 40 member CSA, and at markets through the City Farms Co-op. Our group was particularly impressed by the large tomatoes being grown, outside of a hoophouse, which we haven’t really seen being done on a farming scale in Vancouver. They work with minimal machinery, and really work to include community as part of their work, encouraging CSA members to come and hang out on pick up days, and working with the Coastal Health facility on whose property they farm.

Southlands Farm

Me trying to milk a goat

Me trying to milk a goat

This was another Young Agrarians potluck, and so much fun to visit.

Southlands Farm is a magical place where chickens and sheep wander around, and also includes horses, ducks, goats, and a pig. The main income from this farm is the educational programs, which connect kids with farming in an urban area. The highlight for me was trying to milk one of the goats (pretty unsuccessfully). While not following the more traditional farming structure, Southlands shows how a working farm can be integrated in a residential neighbourhood, and engage families in growing food, caring for animals, and generally stewarding the land.

Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society

Fresh Roots has a pretty unique system. They farm in schoolyards, with 2 main half acre plots on 2 different school grounds. Along with being a working market garden, selling the produce to the school cafeterias as well as farmgate sales, they have a strong focus on education and community building. They use their highly visible position at the school to engage people in conversations about local, organic food, about different food traditions, and about how the farm can be a part of the community.

Yummy Yards

Who wouldn't want a cute guy like this guarding the chickens?

Who wouldn’t want a cute guy like this guarding the chickens?

Yummy Yards is an urban farm with a variety of locations in Vancouver and Richmond, and I had a chance to visit the home base in Richmond as well as 3 of their urban lots. At home base, I got to meet the chickens and Reverend, the llama, who has now completely convinced me that a llama is a great addition to my farm plan! Farming in front yards has some pretty interesting implications, not least among which you need to keep your garden beds very weed-free, since you’re usually on someone’s front yard, and there are often challenges around neighbours, different expectation, watering, and the logistics of just moving from one place to the next. But Yummy Yards makes it work well, and it’s a pretty interesting operation.

Conclusions

Urban farming is a pretty awesome thing that continues to grow in Vancouver. It is a great way to combine food production with education, and increases the connection of urban dwellers to where their food comes from. It might not be able to produce on a huge scale, but small areas can be highly productive, and I think the fringe benefits to society are much greater in terms of visibility, awareness, and overall well-being of people living nearer to thriving food gardens. While I don’t think urban farming is for me, I have a great admiration for those who do it, and think they deserve a lot of recognition from us urban dwellers.

Words of wisdom to ponder from the toilet at Southlands

Words of wisdom to ponder from the toilet at Southlands

Keeping the Pests Away (or trying to)

Organic farming is a lot about battling pests and disease, without the arsenal of chemicals that conventional farming uses. One of the cornerstones of organic farming is the health and earth implications of refraining from using synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides and herbicides, which have blanket effects on soil health, biodiversity, air quality, toxicity of fruits and vegetables, and other implications to insects, humans, and the earth. But bugs and weeds are still a problem, and organic farming continues to develop different weapons and tools to combat them.

One common misconception is that organic farms don’t spray anything at all, and this is not true. But sprays used on certified organic farms are approved by a governing body. For more information on organic certification and what it encompasses (I am not very knowledgeable on this – yet!), see the Certified Organic Association of BC. An interesting debate is on the rise, as well, about certified organic vs “beyond organic” and handshake-organic (trusting that someone is using organic practices, without certification). But that is for another time.

Visitor

Examining collard leaves for insects

Examining collard leaves for insects

Marjo, of ES Crop Consult, led us through the basics of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is a broad way of defining pest management in a way that’s not necessarily organic, but is also not spray-first-ask questions later.

IPM Steps

  1. Know as much as you can about what pests are out there, and about your crops. Knowing what kind of pests are likely to appear in each crop will help to identify problems, and knowing what healthy/unhealthy plants look like is also very important.
  2. Know if insects or disease affect marketability of a crop. For example, leaf damage by aphids to a potato plant doesn’t make the potatoes un-sellable, since it doesn’t change the look of the potato, but may affect yield (amount of potatoes harvested)
  3. Monitor for pests to determine the threshold for action. In some cases, the threshold might just be as soon as you’ve seen one of a species; in other cases, it might be more. It’s also important to know what stage the insects are at in their life cycle, to know when your actions will have the most effect.
  4. Evaluate your actions – did it work? Why or why not? Was it about timing? If you don’t evaluate, then you won’t be able to improve the outcome next time.

Monitoring and Action

There are a variety of tools that can be used to determine what pests are in the field, including sweep nets for flying critters, pheromone traps, sticky cards, or other specialized traps. And of course, the UBC Practicum favourite, go out there and look at the plants! Turn over the leaves, see what you find, and take note.

Different actions are available, based on the scale and the interests of the farmer. On a small scale, squishing is a

Me in my bad-ass spray outfit, to spray soap to combat aphids

Me in my bad-ass spray outfit and backpack sprayer, to spray soap to combat aphids

pretty good option. On a larger, organic farm scale, there are a few sprays that we use on the farm. For aphids on the brassicas (kale, collards), we spray a concentrated soap mixed with water. We have also used DiPel, an organically approved insecticidal spray, for other pests. Other sprays are probably being used, but I’m not familiar with them. But UBC Farm takes an integrated approach, and are often looking for other ways to combat pests.

Alternatives to Sprays

Besides sprays, there are other ways to discourage pests and maintain balance on the farm. One of the keys is attracting beneficial predators, like ladybugs, lacewing moths, and birds. Biodiversity on the farm is important, and having attracting flowers in hedgerows. Ensuring habitat for other creatures on your farm is key, as well as windbreaks, animal corridors, and of course enough bee food – constantly flowering plants to keep your bees healthy.

The Integrated Pest Management in an organic setting may be a lot about hand-squishing, but there are a lot of various ways that organic farmers work to maintain a balance in the hopes that no pest will completely take over and destroy. We have certainly seen a lot of various bugs on the farm!

Unidentified caterpillar in a pepper

Unidentified caterpillar in a pepper

Slow Food Cycle Chilliwack

This past Sunday, M and I participated in the Slow Food Cycle Chilliwack. Slow Food is a movement that began in Italy in 1986 in opposition to fast food, and celebrates appreciation for local, sustainable and community oriented food.

We got our bikes out to Chilliwack, and started our tour at the Chilliwack Visitor Centre, overall visiting 9 farms and processing places, over approximately 25km. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and cycling through the community to visit the farms was a great way to spend the day.

Slow Food Cycle

Greendale Herb & Vine

Greendale Herb & Vine

Small Scale Mixed Veggie Farms

We visited 5 different mixed veggie farms, which were all quite different. Our favourites were Greendale Herb & Vine and Abundant Acres Family Farm, where the farmers were very welcoming and answered a lot of questions, and were happy to share their farming practices. As a wannabe farmer, it was very cool to see different ways that people are farming and marketing. The cycle tour was a great way for people to get directly to the farm, have a chance to look around and meet the farmers, and connect with their community. Many of the people on the tour were from Chilliwack, which leads me to believe that it’s effective at engaging locals, not just bringing in interested out-of-towners like

Abundant Acres Family Farm

Abundant Acres Family Farm

myself.

Chillwack, in my mind, is often perceived as a bastion of conventional corn and dairy farming, and certainly when you go around, you see a lot of corn, and notice a lot of the large barns that house dairy cows. But it was great to see that there are a growing number of small scale, organic farmers getting a toe-hold in the valley.

Cheese and Flour

I had been excited to visit Anita’s Organic flour mill and Happy Days Dairy when I started the tour, hoping to see more about how they work, and learn more about the sourcing of local grains and goat’s milk. Unfortunately, Anita’s wasn’t doing tours, so I didn’t learn very much at that stop. Happy Days was supposed to be doing tours on the hour, and we timed our arrival accordingly, but found the tour had started a good bit earlier, so we missed half of it. I was also hoping to see an actual goat dairy, where the goats are, but Happy Days is only the processing location. We did have the goat’s milk ice cream, though, which I loved.

05 Slow Food Chilliwack  (03)

Overall Impressions

I was a bit disappointed with the Chilliwack Slow Food Cycle. 2 years ago, we had happened upon the Agassiz Slow Food Cycle on our way back from a camping trip, and they had much more of a festival atmosphere, with each stop having some kind of table with food sales like hazelnut burgers or raclette.  This time, very few of the stops were selling anything substantial to eat (some pie, ice cream, cookies), and many of the location hosts seemed rather unengaged. While it was a great day, and a great way to see the farms, I think that Agassiz did a much better job, and that’s where I would go if I did it again.

???????????????????????????????