Adventures in Agriculture

Loutet Farm - before

Going from a muddy field to a functioning market garden in a few short weeks is proving to be quite an experience! As I write this, the sun is streaming in the window, but yesterday someone pointed out that of all the days we have been out there working hard, we’ve had about 4 hours total without rain! I thought I would take this sunny moment to answer a few questions that I’ve been hearing a lot.

First, as soon as the word ‘farm’ is out of my mouth, folks tend to envision pigs and chickens and goats etc. Just to straighten that out, there are no plans to have animals at Loutet Farm. As it is situated on public parkland there will not be anyone living on site, so animal care is difficult (not to mention that the bylaws in the City of North Vancouver still don’t allow for things like chickens). Instead of picturing a barnyard, think about a flourishing market garden instead!

One of the many groups of volunteers that are making this project a reality. Photo Jade Pover, Concert Properties

Second, people ask how it will be divided up. One of the reasons that this is an exciting project is that it is not a community garden – it is a whole new kind of experiment. In a community garden, individual gardeners are given or rent a small space where they can grow anything they want, and do what they want with what they produce. At the Loutet Farm, we have two farmers (Jo and Gail) who are paid to grow food on the property. This produce will be available for sale to you – our friends and neighbours!

Once people realize that produce will be sold, ‘where does the money go?’ is always the next question. The farm is managed by the North Shore Neighbourhood House (home to the EGP) which is a charitable organization. ‘Social enterprise’ – one of the new buzzwords in the non-profit world – is where organizations like ours enter into a business venture that will both make money (fingers crossed!) and also have social and environmental benefits for the community. Our goal is that the farm will be able to sustain itself financially within five years. All of the money generated through the sale of produce will go back into the operation of the farm.

Nobody generally asks this, but I think it’s important – our goal is to pay our farmers a living wage. Typically, small-scale organic farmers make very little (I would estimate somewhere in the range of $3/hr?). The average age of farmers in BC is around 57 – and few of those soon-to-be retiring farmers have anyone to continue the farm. Low income, hard work, high risk and impossible land prices make agriculture a rather unattractive career choice for new young farmers. We are trying to create, in our own small way, attractive ‘green collar’ jobs in agriculture so that we can continue to do what we do best – EAT!

The view of the Farm two weeks in. Photo Jade Pover, Concert Properties

If you’ve got more questions about Loutet Farm – let me know! If you would like to volunteer on this (or any of our other projects) contact Emily.

To see photos of some of the fun we’ve had so far along the way click here.

This initiative has been supported by: Concert Properties, Vancouver Coastal Health, Neptune Terminals, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Wesgroup Properties, The Great Canadian Landscaping Company and T. Moscone & Bros Landscaping.

Plus, of course, our partners: UBC SALA, Greenskins Lab and the City of North Vancouver.

— Heather.

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