When I first saw Loutet Farm it felt like the the answer to my dreams. I had tried working as a volunteer and community coordinator at an urban farm, but was frustrated because I wanted to farm. I had tried running a rural market farm business, but found that I couldn’t thrive without the connection to people and the feeling of being part of something bigger. At Loutet I was excited by the possibility to be both a farmer and part of an inspiring community.
As a farmer what I’ve learned most about at Loutet is how to grow soil. It was a barren rock field before the farm was built in 2011. It was a real challenge to grow food that first year. I’ve put my energy and effort into making compost…feeding in well-composted matter to the soil, adding organic amendments when needed. Now it’s beautiful and fertile. I smile whenever I plunge my hand into one of the beds and pull up a crumbly, black handful teeming with life. I know that no matter what happens at Loutet, there is going to be a half-acre of fertile organic soil in North Vancouver for many years to come.
But what I am most proud of and what I will remember the most, is being part of the growing community that IS Loutet Farm. Just as we build fertile soil for our crops, we are building a fertile place to grow community. The Loutet community is inspiring. Several people who grew up on the North Shore have told me they had never felt part of anything until they got involved at Loutet, met their neighbours and began to make a difference in their neighbourhood together.
The Loutet community is everyone from customers who come to be fed, to volunteers, to EGP staff, to students of all ages, to neighbours who come to connect at events and potlucks, to the City who acts as our generous landlord (helping everything run smoothly), to curious onlookers drawn in by the unique use of public parkland. As with the soil, I know that no matter what happens to Loutet Farm, this will be a thriving community in North Vancouver for many years to come.
I also know that Loutet and Sutherland Farms will continue to thrive under Farmer Holly’s leadership. She is going to do great things. I feel like the stars aligned when we were able to hire Holly as our second Farmer this year and to help me out as we added Sutherland Farm to our program. To have had a whole year to work with Holly – giving her the opportunity to see the whole system, to meet and grow with the community before taking over – has made it such a smooth transition. I didn’t feel any stress at the end, it was clear that she had it all under control. I can’t wait to watch as she takes the EGP farms to the next level. I know that she will do some things differently from the way I would, that there will be some change and evolution – and that’s exactly the way it should be!
All of this makes it easier for me to leave Loutet and the EGP, but it will certainly never be easy. These past four years growing and blossoming within the Loutet community has been the most significant and impactful period of my life. I have grown and evolved so much as a person during this time. My future direction and goals grew directly from the Loutet community. I met my fiancee, Britt, at Loutet Farm. We purchased the property we are moving to in Enderby with Emily and Eoin, whom we met at Loutet. I have formed lifelong friendships with many people in the Loutet community, people who will be a part of this next phase in my life, some in very significant ways.
The Loutet experience has taught me that we will be the most happy and successful by engaging our new community in the North Okanagan. I want to grow food but I don’t want to push for production. For me, it will continue to be about growing abundance and diversity and welcoming the community to share that. We have many dreams for how achieve this, including u-pick, a farm store, bed and breakfast cabins, farm dinners, weddings, farm tours and education programs.
I want to say how grateful I am to everyone who makes Loutet Farm and the Edible Garden Project what it is. My co-workers at the EGP and the North Shore Neighbourhood House; the hundreds of volunteers; our community market customers; teachers and students of all ages; the City of North Vancouver council and staff; all of our funders and supporters; our amazing champions in the community who provide their endless passion because they believe in what we are doing…THANK YOU! You are all very inspiring. I know that I will always feel connected to this special community and I look forward to following along as it grows and continues to accomplish amazing things. For now, I say farewell, but never goodbye 🙂