Submitted by Cariboo Growers Co-op –
Celebrating its seventh summer season of operations, Cariboo Growers Farmers Co-op would like to showcase some of the local producers who grow organic produce for the community in and around the Williams Lake area in the beautiful Cariboo country.
The Cariboo Growers Farmer Co-Op Store opened its doors in April, 2010 with one goal in mind: to provide the community of Williams Lake with delicious locally sourced and organically grown produce. The store is a not-for-profit co-operative owned by the very same local ranchers and farmers who sell their produce there. As a community co-op, the purpose is to link local consumers with local producers to provide broader access to local foods on a year-round basis.
All of the producers practice organic growing methods, without the use of GMOs or non-organic chemicals. They carry certified organic local produce, fruit, meats, honey, cheese, preserves, bread, and other local products such as Cookie Break snacks, Rodear Beef Jerky, juice, and a variety of other organic staples such as seeds and nuts.
Open all year long, find the current store hours (or sign up for the weekly “What’s new at the Co-op this week”) online at www.cariboogrowers.ca, through the Facebook page, or call (778) 412-COOP (2667).
Debbie Irvine of Springhouse Gardens started her farming career in 1991, operating an 80-acre commercial vegetable farm in Abbotsford. After moving to the Cariboo in 2007, Debbie decided it was time for a change and started her ¼-acre market garden using organic and sustainable methods. Six years later, Springhouse Gardens expanded by introducing small-scale grass fed beef farming. Her beef is grass fed and hay finished, with no antibiotics, GMOs, or hormones.
“I raise them with respect,” she says. “For minerals and vitamin supplementation they have mineral salt blocks and kelp meal. For treats they get alfalfa cubes, cut up carrots, and potatoes, and during the summer whatever is available from my market farm.”
Debbie believes strongly in soil stewardship and our responsibility to the land and its preservation. In addition to only using organic growing methods (without the use of harmful chemical herbicides and pesticides), she uses a system of crop rotation, composting, cover cropping, and avoid over grazing to ensure the land remains fertile and will be arable for generations to come. Throughout the season, Debbie sells her produce at the co-op, offers a box-a-week program, and loves to have people visit her farm and meet her herd.
Puddle Produce is Williams Lake’s very first urban farming project; by utilizing donated backyards and unused city space Brianna Van De Wijngaard has created her very own market garden spread far and wide across the city. Puddle Produce grows leafy greens such as kale, lettuce, arugula, root veggies, and micro greens, which is given in part to those residents who have given her their properties to farm, as well as to the Co-op, her box-a-week, and the local farmers’ market.
Brianna first fell in love with farming while working on a farm-stay after university in 2011. Since then she became hooked and has spent countless hours researching, learning, and experimenting to hone her craft. Brianna uses her urban farming as a means to show people in town how to best put their lawns and land to use.
Puddle Produce recently received a $5000 award from the Market Gardener’s Toolkit—a crowdfunded documentary about tools and techniques for a profitable, human-scale market garden without the use of heavy machinery. See film here: www.possiblemedia.org/marketgardener/ Contestants were required to submit a video about their project and share their progress. See Brianna’s video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFOCTjpdwCo
In the 2017 season Brianna will be operating a farm in the Soda Creek Region.
Frank’s Plants & Produce
Frank Wijma of Frank’s Plants and Produce has been greenhouse farming in the Cariboo since 2008, after eight years of working in a commercial greenhouse on the coast. Frank enjoys producing mainly seedlings and bedding plants to sell to local gardeners, providing them with tried and tested local varieties that are best suited to the Cariboo’s particular climate. After working in an office for many years in the North West Territories, Frank realized his true passion was experimenting with and producing delicious sustainably grown produce, and returned to school to receive his horticulture diploma.
By growing a variety of different vegetables and produce, Frank can experiment with different techniques and methods to grow his knowledge and keep him interested. Frank believes firmly in local food, and enjoys selling his seedlings and bedding plants to give others the gift of growing and producing their own food. Frank’s produce can be found at the Co-op, the farmers’ market, as well as at his own location in Horsefly.
Mackin Creek Farm
Mackin Creek Farm has been a staple of the Cariboo farming community for 30 years, situated just above the Fraser River in the Soda Creek area (equidistance between Williams Lake and Quesnel). Owned and operated by Cathie Allen and Rob Borsato, Mackin Creek Farms produces a variety of organic market vegetables, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and really anything that can grow in the unique Cariboo climate.
Neither Cathie nor Rob came from farming backgrounds; however, both having fond memories of working in the family garden, they chose to “come back to the land.”
They grow certified organically not only for the quality and flavour organic food provides, but also to ensure the longevity of the soil and land they care for so diligently. They chose to join the Co-op to support and encourage other producers in the area, to help new growers just finding their feet, and to offer the local community easy access to raw organic food.
Fraser Bench Farms
Perched on a narrow strip of benchland overlooking the Fraser river, Fraser bench Farms has been producing sustainable fruit and vegetables for the past 30 years. The area itself sits in a small warm microclimate, allowing Linda Archibald and Charlie Brous to grow unique produce that farmers at higher altitudes cannot. Fraserbench grows a wide array of produce on a small scale, such as onions, pickling cucumbers, fresh beans, delicious raspberries, as well as tart pie cherries, prune plums, and apples from their small orchard. They also produce unpasteurized frozen apple juice and apple cider vinegar. Sustainable practices are very important to Linda and Charlie as firm believers of soil stewardship.
“Sustainable growing practices create soil that is rich in micro organisms and nutrients,” they say.“The farmer does not rob from another part of the Earth to feed the garden. The food produced has maximum nourishment and minimal contamination. When the soil is cared for and nourished, the plants that grow in it are healthy and able to ward off many pests and diseases.”
Charlie grew up in the foothills of the Sierras in California, and spent his early years ranching and leading mule pack trains laden with supplies to the high camps in Yosemite National Parks before moving to the Cariboo and starting his own ranch in the 1960s. As a retired high school science teacher, Linda has always taught the importance of local and sustainable food to her students, and always had an experimental garden growing somewhere to show others what could be grown in the Cariboo with a little bit of imagination (including a large plastic covered pyramid “greenhouse” in Anahim Lake).
Slow Train Farm
Slow Train Farm, found near McLeese Lake, is a true homestead built from raw earth by Mike and Stephanie Bird. After starting to build their house in 2006 using a traditional style commonly known as cob, they also began tending and harvesting a small garden to feed their family. Before the two of them met teaching in Haida Gwaii, Mike worked on various organic farms after university and fell in love with the Cariboo while working on the Springfield cattle ranch. It was also during this time he developed his own philosophies around soil sustainability and his responsibility to the land.
Having grown up spending summers on her grandmother’s farm in Nova Scotia, as well as WWOOFing, (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) Stephanie chose this way of living—with integrity and responsibility to the land they hope to pass down to their children. Slow Train Farm now produces a large array of certified organic vegetables, mainly focusing on greens such as lettuce, arugula, and Swiss chard. Their produce can be found at the Co-op as well as farmers’ markets all over the Cariboo, from Quesnel to Williams Lake.