Phew! What a season **brow wipe**! I joined the Edible Garden Project as Neighbourhood Farmer at the end of June and hit the ground running. Farmer Holly had been doing a superwoman number on the farm and welcomed my support with open (and tired) arms.
I got the fast track into what the Edible Garden Project was all about and there was never a dull moment. As the season is winding down and my contract is coming to an end I’ve taken the time to reflect on the past season and note some of my favourite memories and highlights.
One cannot speak about the EGP Farms without beaming with pride about the community involvement – Loutet Farm is the community hub of the EGP. Coming from three seasons at an isolated rural farm in the valley to Loutet where the community literally surrounds the farm, I grew to enjoy the collective support and excitement for what we do.
Whether it was someone walking by with their dog stopping to say hello, offer a word of encouragement or chat about growing tips, it was so rewarding to take time to engage with this fiercely supportive community.
Gerry’s Garden is a prime example of what this community has to offer. Hearing the back stories of how this haven evolved and meeting the local heroes responsible for it has definitely been a huge highlight. Shout out to Ric, Sharon, Howard and Gerry – you are some very inspirational folks!
Another huge highlight was the Farm to Feast long table fundraising dinner. Holy smokes! Talk about the pinnacle event for community involvement! Such a lovely dinner created by local chef Erik from S’Wich Cafe, a welcoming ceremony given by Cease Wyss of the Skwxwu7mesh community, and Farmer Holly and I trying our hand at bartending for you fine folks. Good times all around.
The Volunteer Farm Internship program is so special to the EGP Farms and it was so great to get involved. Linda, Shauna, Erian, Ali and Cheyenne started months before I did on the farm and by the time I arrived blew me away with their involvement and enthusiasm.
Many harvest days and big projects were made doable and enjoyable with the help from these fine folks. It was a privilege to watch them develop their growing skills and to get to know each of them.
It is invaluable to be able to trade help at the farm for mentorship – coaching future growers that we can send back into the community to be ambassadors of the EGP and of a successful urban farm.
One of my favourite memories with the interns was making garlic braids and all agreeing we should grow more soft neck next season to create more next year!
Another special aspect of the EGP Farms is the volunteers that come to the rescue. Whether it was times where it felt like the farm was being swallowed whole by weeds or a potato blight emergency that needed immediate attention, it was if we had a mini fleet of defenders that would march in and help out on whatever needed to be done. All with big smiles, big hearts and a healthy glow from the fresh air.
My favourite line with the new growers/volunteers is “Did you know that putting your hands in the soil raises your serotonin levels?” It’s true! Evidence for that is displayed constantly with the volunteers.
One of the most rewarding aspects of having voluteers work on the farms is hearing people’s stories and having “solving the worlds problems” conversations while weeding. Who needs therapy?
Probably my favourite aspect of being a farmer is being able to attend the markets. After a long hard week of blood, sweat and tears in the garden, meeting and talking to the people who come to support us is beyond gratifying.
This is where it all comes full circle. Whether its swapping cooking tips or growing tips the conversations that happen are always bubbling with energy and excitement. I love nothing more than to stand at the till with Farmer Holly with pride at what can be done with your hands and a passionate heart.
Some other market highlights were watching our flower bouquets sell – I love growing and creating the bouquets for market. Also supplying over 300 lbs of fresh and cured garlic – how delicious was it?
The monthly community markets were always a highlight as well: focaccia bread, soups, soaps and many other beautiful products, it was so great to share the space with these skilled makers.
I believe education around growing and supporting local food are paramount and what better way to expose the public to this than a market garden on school property at Sutherland Secondary School?
My favourite crops were also grown at the Schoolyard Market Garden this season. A beautiful bounty of squash tumbled over and around the garden beds, sweet onions reaped the benefits of new soil grew the size of small children’s heads, and the market sweetheart – salad turnips. We also had the most incredible Dahlia varieties here as well.
My favourite crops grown at Loutet this season were our magical winter crops of cabbage, sprouting broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Along with our greenhouse crops of the sweetest tomatoes and the crunchiest long English cucumbers.
It was such an honour and pleasure growing alongside Farmer Holly this season and time spent in the field learning from each others experiences will be a highly cherished aspect of my farming career.
It has been a whirlwind of a season that is coming to its natural end. As we put the farm and garden boxes to bed, tucking them in with cover crop and mulch, I myself am winding down for the winter.
But fear not! The most romantic time of the season is not far away when seed catalogues start rolling in and dreams of a new season begin! Hope to see you next spring!