As I packed my van for the last market of 2021, I started to get emotional thinking about where I was at this time last year. I had lost both my jobs and had to move home while the world seemed to be getting scarier every day. I was struggling with anxiety attacks, depression and a terrifying sense of hopelessness surrounding the current state of the planet.* So what was I going to do? Giving up and being sad, although that’s what I wanted to do, was not going to help me, the earth or anyone else. So, I came up with the wild idea of starting a small farm not only to help do my part in the beautiful movement of sustainability but to have a career that, for once, would support a holistically healthy lifestyle for myself and also Elly.
How did I turn this wild idea into a reality in just one year while camping out in my parent’s spare bedroom? It all started with chickens (as it often does for some reason). One day, while I was browsing pictures of off-grid tiny houses, I came across an adorable little homestead with some adorable little chickens. I immediately asked my parents if they would get me a chicken or two for Christmas and help me keep them in our very small and grassless residential yard. Shockingly they said no, so I began to come up with a plan for how I would get my happy little dream life with my tiny house and happy little hens. I would need land for sure... acreage or a farm… and how was I going to pay for this all? That’s when I discovered market gardens and farmsteading; a whole new world of self sufficiency that doubles as a career.
Thanks to the encouraging mantra I shared with my friend, “everything happens for a reason”, I decided to take my abrupt career adjustment and try to start a small vegetable farm. Last December I was reading books, watching videos, taking notes, talking to locals, and learning as much as I could about farming, market gardening, permaculture, organics, bio-diversity, soil structure, growing vegetables, harvesting, irrigation, and how to balance it all without burning out. I somehow convinced myself, a friend with land, and my parents that I would be able to pull it off. Trust me when I say, every possible doubt that could cross my mind did. No amount of studying can prepare anyone for their first season of farming.
Although I spent a good amount of time this spring marching around the garden in tears saying “I don’t know!” over and over, by the end of the summer I realized I did know some things. There was definitely a period of time where I struggled to find my own rhythm, systems, and way of farming that worked for me. Some days I was upset that my rows weren’t as straight as that farm I saw online or frustrated that my carrots didn’t germinate even when I followed the instructions in my book. It took time to appreciate the uniqueness of my farm and figure out what aspects were working for me and what ones weren’t. Throughout the season I continued to work on my mental health and every day, working outside with my hands, I learned lessons that usually take years of counselling for people to grasp. I also did a year of actual counselling which was great for my balance of self care through a hectic season. With every failed experiment and every bountiful success came more experience, confidence, and eventually more enjoyment. I have caught myself on more than one occasion laughing out loud at how corny but true saying like: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” really are.
Yes, it sounds lovely like I play in the dirt all day while thinking about the circle of life, but in reality, that was barely a fraction of my time. Not only do I have 3 off farm jobs, my dog, and a bad habit of saying yes to too many people at once, I somehow managed to sew, grow, and harvest enough produce to bring to the weekly farmers market all season. I stuck to my plan and avoided the massive debts that are usually synonymous with new farming ventures by using simple hand tools, salvaging materials and only hiring my retired mother for help and paying her with ugly veg. Stretching and hot Epsom salts baths are definitely cheaper than a John Deere but I have never been so mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted in my life. Halfway through the already too busy season I added my small Farm Box program, and I am so glad I did. The love and support from these 5 families is what encouraged me to keep going through the rest of the challenging season, the heatwaves, the fires and to continue to grow for years to come. I will not sugar-coat the blood sweat and tears, but being able to share healthy sustainable food with people I care about is why I chose to farm, why my whole outlook on life is now brighter, and why I consider this season a success.
"So how was your first year?" Everyone has been asking so here is my answer! If the last 1000 words or so were a little long winded, it's because what I experienced this year was beyond words. It was a learning experience in so many ways. Did I reach every goal I had set in January? No, but I discovered and achieved new goals. I transformed an unused patch of weeds into a pollinator's dream garden of diverse fruits, vegetables, and flowers. I fed my family, and many local families, food they could feel good about sharing with their families. I feel healthier in mind body and spirit while living in a way that aligns with my concerns for the planet. I am pulling fresh vegetables out of the ground in DECEMBER for a CHRISTMAS MARKET! I don’t know how else to explain how good it feels to have come so far. Personally, and on the farm, because of every amazing person involved, this year was a huge success.
I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to you reading this and everyone who showed me love and support throughout the year. I can’t wait to share more with you in 2022!
Take it Easy,
*If you are currently struggling with any of these you are not alone. Please reach out if you need to talk. I’m always willing to listen from a place of non-judgment and can offer helpful resources. In case of an emergency always call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. You are worthy, of love and support. Please get help when you need it.
Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for help any time of day or night, from anywhere across BC. It’s a free call and they are also available to help if you are concerned for someone else.
Mental Health Support Line: Call 310-6789 (no area code).
Visit crisiscentrechat.ca to chat online with a crisis responder.
Kid’s Help Phone: Visit kidshelpphone.ca or call 1-800-668-6868.
Seniors’ Distress Line: Call 604-872-1234
Alcohol & Drug Information Referral Service: Call 1-800-663-1441 (604-660-9382 in the Lower Mainland) for information about substance use treatments or supports in your area.
Health Link BC (Dial 8-1-1) Deaf or hearing-impaired (TTY): 711