It’s not the best time to be a small farmer in BC. While interest in local and organic farming has been on a steady increase, it’s still tough to compete with the prices and variety offered at the local supermarket. It is possible to survive, however, by creating a model that does more than just offer fruits and vegetables at a farm stand. One such model is called Organic Fair, just up and around the corner from where I live in Cobble Hill, only 6 minutes from the Transcanada Highway, and it really is this little oasis of an organic farm, complete with chickens, greenhouses, permaculture gardens, and chocolate.
When you are a young couple starting out, like Kent and Marisa Goodwin were a few years ago, cash flow on a farm can be a problem. So while the farm is ramping up to more production, they make organic, fair trade chocolate bars which are sometimes goosed up with local ingredients to help pay the bills. Their top sellers include the Canadiana, 70% dark chocolate with maple syrup, sundried apples and alder smoked salt, and the Westcoaster, 70% dark chocolate with toasted hazelnuts and wild blueberries.
Growing local does comes first, though, and the whole farm is designed to be sustainable, from the buildings constructed of recycled materials and their heating and water systems, to the permaculture herb gardens and organic composting.
So the chocolate has been doing quite well for them, you can find it in shops all over the country now, but I was also intrigued with some of the products that come more directly from the farm, like Douglas Fir essential oil, and water-based misters of lemon balm or lavender that you can use in cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks to flavour them, spray it on your face to rejuvenate, or even use as a facial toner.
At the peak of the season they will have over a dozen people working there, it’s a little quiet right now but the quiet season won’t last long. They have plans to get some more animals this year, ducks and goats to start with, and they are having a lot of fun with their heritage variety chickens, some of which they are cross-breeding. You can expect to get eggs of many colours there, the typical brown and white, but sometimes blue, and green, and pink, and maybe dark espresso brown later this year if they add yet another breed to their zoo.
So in the summer the idea is you can go there and see all the animals, pick up some eggs, fresh produce…and ice cream! They make their own ice cream there, so you can grab a cone and sit on the patio and just take it all in. So now that I’ve discovered it, finally, I’ll be there much more often. Marisa and I have already been trading cooking ideas since she works on a lot of the recipes there and has really settled down to life on a farm. While Kent was off toiling in Costa Rica working with permaculture farms there, she was living in Vancouver, so the transition was sharp. The biggest surprise for her so far is just the whole idea of being able to get so much wonderful food by just walking out her back door, or by visiting one of the nearby farms.
"Yes, I traded my heels for gumboots! But the availability of all this unreal good food direct from other farms, and then the magic of actually being able to grow food yourself and going, 'what's for dinner?' and just going in your back garden and just free-style picking a ton of things and just having the most fantastic meal of your life!"
So Organic Fair is a worthwhile visit if you are up in my neck of the woods, check out a great example of organic, sustainable farming.