Our first stay of the jouney on a proper commercial farm has been an amazing experience. We came across Glen Valley Organic Farm via the website of a Vancouver-based organisation called Farm Folk City Folk. A phone call later and we were invited to see the place and were treated to some legendary Canadian hospitality for the remainder of our stay.
Glen Valley is a small farm; 50 acres, of which only 12 are in production growing about 40 different fruit and vegetable crops. It’s on some of the most fertile land in British Columbia, on the banks of the Fraser River about 60km east of downtown Vancouver. It’s an amazingly beautiful setting, with snow-capped mountains for a backdrop and the farm gently sloping down to the old river bad where the majority of the crops are grown.
We’ve also been really impressed with the farm operation itself. Small farms in the UK seem often to get described as uneconomic, financially unviable or inefficient, usually owned by ‘hobby farmers’. Yet small farms in British Columbia seem to be thriving. Glen Valley produces far more money per acre than the average for BC agricultural land and employs 8 people full time for the duration of the growing season. That’s pretty impressive job-creation for 12 acres of farmland. According to the farmers, Chris and Jeremy (and a report they cited that i’ll try and get hold of), this seems to be the rule for small farms in BC rather than an exception. They sell direct to their customers via farmers markets, local restaurants and a CSA scheme, which helps them see a greater chunk of the profits. They also know their land intimately, to a degree that wouldn’t seem possible on a bigger farm, allowing much more intensive but at the same time way more environmentally sound production techniques. Here’s Chris talking about why he thinks small farms are important. (The sound quality’s not great but it’s our first go so will improve!) It begs the question of why this model of farming isn’t more common in the UK? (Or maybe it is and im not aware!) It’s certainly not land prices as they ‘re really high over here too.