The many challenges of farming in Sooke

  • Apr. 13, 2011 3:00 p.m.

ALM Organic Farm uses a series of moveable greenhouses to start their plants. In this photo

Right now the most immediate and obvious challenge we face is the rain.  Weather will always be a challenge we have to face. Every year is different and it’s only late or early relative to the previous year.

We haven’t had enough sunny days to dry the fields enough to be able to spade and prep beds for the early crops. Thus far we’ve been able to get in a bed of potatoes, broad-beans, two pea beds and two strawberry beds.  We were able to get these crops in using beds which held winter crops that we have cleared (carrots, leek and parsnips), beds we mulched (to protect the soil through the rainy seasons) and a few beds we were able to spade when we had a few short windows of dry in February and March.

Good thing we have greenhouses! We have been spending a lot of time in the greenhouses and potting shed, as the weather dictates what we can and cannot do on the farm. Our moveable greenhouses are full of early direct seeded and transplanted crops, mostly comprised of head lettuces, bunching onions, spinach, carrots and greens of all types (lots of salad greens, herbs and braising greens).  We moved one greenhouse off the cold tolerant crops and it is now resting over top of the field we will plant with tomatoes. Our moveable greenhouses help us with crop rotation and allow us to use the greenhouse cover for tomatoes in the summer and winter crops, without having to sacrifice one crop for the other.

We have transplanted over 100 tomato plants to date, with many more to come (maybe 600 plants total). We aim to start transplanting our tomatoes into the greenhouses starting at the end of march and hopefully will have them all in within the month.

The biggest challenge we face is the economic reality of farming. As a young farmer I see the struggles we face and sometimes I’m not sure how or if it will all work out. We all love the “lifestyle” but unfortunately that doesn’t pay the bills. I am hopeful that there has been so much attention paid to local food systems in recent years, but we still have a long way to go as a society to make farming a viable option.  More attention needs to be paid to the plight of farmers, young and old, experienced and new.  The price of land is a big obstacle. Regulations are a big obstacle.  The price we are willing to pay for our food is also a big obstacle.  People understanding the work it takes for us to produce fruit and vegetables will go a long way.  Whenever anyone complains about the price of our food I get really defensive and distraught because I know how hard we work to produce the food and how much I make in a year. I challenge anyone who complains about our prices to try to make a living off farming for a year and then come back and tell me our prices are too high. I’d bet they’d come back and tell us we don’t charge enough. We don’t even try to compete with big food, why would we? It is an entirely different product. We need to produce food that’s good for the consumer, good to the land, air and water and good to the people who work so hard to produce it.

Today, Wednesday, April 13 is Video Awareness night showing a film about young and new farmers The Greenhorns.

There will be a panel of new/young farmers talking about the reality and challenges we face. I think we need to be more honest and up front about the reality of farming so we can start making the changes needed to ensure our future.  This is a crucial time for the future of farming.

Marika Nagasaka

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