This week I was privileged enough to spend the morning and early afternoon at Glen Valley Organic Farm out on the border of Abbostford. Glen Valley Organic Farm is 50 acre certified organic farm run as a co-operative. Currently, Jeremy and Chris are the two main farmers. You may have met them or Rob, an apprentice, at the market on Thursdays. They and their families live on the property. I arrived on the property at 7:30am — this is a very early start for a self-proclaimed night owl and was anxious to see what the day would have in store for me.
Jessica Crabb is a full-time professional writing student coming up on her final year in College. When not writing or blogging she enjoy riding her horse, working on some sort of artsy project, or traveling and enjoying nature in this beautiful province. As a part of her program, Jessica has been completing a work experience program with RCFM, acting as a marketing assistant. We sent Jessica out to visit one of our vendor’s farms to truly immerse herself in the “industry”. Here’s her take.
Farm activities had already been underway since dawn, such as milking the goats and tending to the hens. As I stepped out of my car and took a giant breath of fresh farm air I was met by Rob, who took me for a quick tour of the farm grounds. I felt a bit out of sorts since I had flimsy shorts and flip flops but I did bring runners in case I was put to work. After changing into my runners, I trotted along behind Rob, anxious as to what the day will bring me.
The tour started at the top of the farm where Rob showed me various cold frame structures that that houses many types of produce including some of the heirloom tomatoes market shoppers know Glen Valley for.
I also noticed the amount of wild flowers and sun flowers around this area. The flowers are home to many beneficial insects such a parasitic wasps and ladybugs.
I also saw lots of corn but sadly Rob told me it was a bad season for it and most of it will not be sold at the markets – although it won’t go to waste – it’s great feed for the animals on the property and will contribute to the compost. Nothing is waste in farming, and everything contributes. Once we walked around the top of the farm we headed down past the chicken coop and one of the barns and I must say that those were the noisiest hens I had ever encountered. They would flood the fence and stalk you as you walked by. Just look at them running in this picture I snapped!
We kept walking down toward the lower fields and when we arrived Rob introduced me to Jeremy. Jeremy was confused; he had been expecting a person who was interested in getting into farming and possibly apprenticing, not a writer with a big camera around her neck and a pad of paper in her back pocket. Nonetheless I said that I was writing a piece about the farm for the RCFM website and I have horses, so I was game to get my hands dirty and give them a hand. We set to work weeding… and talking. It was easy conversation as Jeremy is very passionate about what he does and about good food.
We talked about the history of the coop and why he got into farming. Every once in awhile a train with containers would rumble past and he explained that seeing it was motivation to do what he does; to keep food local and not need to send it out by train and plane. Once the weeding was done we moved onto picking cukes and pulling onions and garlic and placing the into windrows so they could eventually cure. We talked about the importance of crop rotation to keep disease away and I learned you wouldn’t plant potatoes in the same spot year after year. He also went through the different “families” of vegetables and shades of my high school biology class crossed my mind – the farmers are very well educated.
Jeremy and I hiked up towards the meadows after weeding and pulling which offered a beautiful vantage point of the farm. It is such a beautiful place not in just appearance but in what it does for the community.
Up at the meadow we went to a dilapidated barn housing a bunch of garlic hanging from the rafters to cure. They were ready to be cleaned up for the market so we grabbed dozens of them and took them back to the main barn to trim them.
Back at the barn where produce is kept before it goes to market I was handed clippers and got to work trimming each garlic. This garlic very likely came to our market the day after – the freshness and timeline of market vegetables can be measured in days – not weeks or even months like the giant containers that often bring the produce to conventional stores. There was something peaceful and relaxing about doing such a normally monotonous activity. Perhaps it was the pastoral landscape around me, the sound of hard work and the fresh farm smells but the morning went by quickly and before I knew it we were heading for lunch.
I was invited for lunch – a daily shared ritual on the farm. Everyone has a day they prepare lunch and that day it was Chris’s wife. She made healthy, delicious dragon bowls. If this is the type of food you get to eat everyday I think I want to pitch a tent and live here! Lunch was filled with happy chatter and discussion of upcoming events. Desert was delicious homemade ice-cream.
After lunch I spent an hour or so wandering the farm taking photos and petting goats, thinking about my conversations with the dedicated and knowledgeable members of GVOF. It was an interesting and educational morning. I left the farm that afternoon, and concluded that a lot of us including myself, don’t put a lot of thought into where our food comes from, we just think that by blindly buying food from the “organic” section of conventional grocery stores we are doing our part. Green living and smart food choices take research as we need to know where our food comes from and get to know the people who provide us with the freshest produce. By shopping at the farmers market, it’s easier to see the big picture and get to know your farmers.
I thank Jeremy and all other folks at Glen Valley Organic Farm for sharing a slice of their life with me. You can find out more about the farm on their website, or check out their blog. They’re also on twitter! @gvof