Knowing your farmer; another level of local

Updated: May 3

Farmer Dan hauling an armload of chard

Buying local is generally seen as a hit to the pocket book that many people aren't convinced is worth those extra dollars. What's the difference after all right? A beet is a beet ain't it?

I've always been a big believer in buying local. I always will be.

When it comes time to buy a gift, I head to a little boutique before I go to the mall. If it's bath and body products I'm after, I check for a local business with quality, clean ingredients online. When I started to make switches to the way I shopped to feed my family, shopping local wasn't quite far enough for me. It's a good start, don't get me wrong. It's an excellent first step if you're weighing your options between that bag of onions from over the border, or the ones grown in BC. Choosing locally grown produce is an important choice to be aware of, if only for the emissions it takes to get the food to your basket.

But if you can, let's walk this road a little further shall we?

I started with eggs. I heard through the grapevine on Facebook of a lady who had a bunch of chickens in the Fraser Valley. I could get on her list to buy eggs direct from her. I pay seasonally and my whole amount of eggs is delivered to the North Shore once a month. I eventually was able to visit her farm and see with my own eyes the happy hens scratching and clucking out in the open air. Those were the chickens who would lay the eggs I would bake and cook with. This was the woman who cared for the hens. Having that connection to my food was like whetting my appetite for more.

Over the years I have bought meat such as pork, beef and chicken straight from the farmer. I almost always find my meat farmers on Craigslist. It's an easy and inexpensive way for a farmer to advertise what they have to offer. Plug in some key words like, "free range, black Angus, heritage" and you'll get something to work with. Fire off an email to the farmer. Ask questions and go from there. Being able to drive to the farm, shake the hand of the person who cared for, fed, and nurtured that very animal you're now buying to feed your family is a reward in itself.

Farmers are generally very friendly folk. Generous with their time and their experience, they want to give you as the customer a glimpse of their day to day and an assurance that the food you're buying is worthy of your time and of course, your money. I love being able to put my hard earned dollars into those hard working hands. No middle man, transport truck, plane or train involved. That's farmer direct.

Buying local is generally seen as a hit to the pocket book that many people aren't convinced is worth those extra dollars. What's the difference after all right? A beet is a beet ain't it? I used to pick up a pint of blueberries and a bunch of Romaine lettuce from the farmers market and think I was eating the best of the local best. I gave myself a nice little pat on the back for doing my local deed to boot, but I was about to get schooled about the importance of not just buying local, but knowing my farmer.

Along came a fella named Dan Ostenbrink. After coming across his website and watching the video about the Local Harvest Gardening Course I was drawn to the farm itself. On his farm at Local Harvest in Chilliwach, he uses zero sprays. Not even ones approved to use with organics. Not a fungicide will you see, nor any type of pesticide or fertilizer. The way Dan farms is to work harmoniously with nature. Regenerative agriculture. He has implemented a no-till method of farming so as to not disrupt the delicate soil food web in which he grows his food. Nothing goes to waste at Local Harvest. Instead of dumping unused food from the farm or the market, it gets turned into varying types of compost or fed to the pigs. Pigs make manure, which is also an import compost contributor. Nature is the teacher and he is, and continues to be, a studious observer to read how she responds to changes in weather, common pests, unwanted fungal growths and mildew that would threaten his crops.

For me, knowing my farmer, his farming practices, his drive to continue to care for his land is a very comforting place to sit as a consumer. It builds trust. Being able to take a bite into an apple grown at Local Harvest, is confidence. I have confidence that there aren't any unwanted chemicals on that produce. I trust that the soil food web was kept in tact while that particular produce was growing. The food speaks for itself that's been grown this way. The carrots are not only crunchy, they're fragrant. The herbs, robust and aromatic unlike their store bought counterparts. As I have brought Local Harvest food to people here on the North Shore, I hear time and time again how impressed they are with the quality. They taste the difference and are better nourished for buying this food grown so close to home. The food is harvested when it's ready, not when the market demands, this ensures I'm getting the most nutrient dense food available.

Knowing my farmer is another level of local I can taste. I'd like a second helping please.

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