Supporting local food and farmers

I forgot to post my most recent Faces & Places column after it was published in the Moss Rock Review a few weeks ago. Just wanted to share it with you now…

You’re on your way home from work wondering what to make for dinner, when suddenly you spot a sign by the road: farm stand. On impulse, you drive in, thinking that maybe you’ll find some inspiration for your home-cooked meal. Looking over the freshly-picked tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatillos and squash you’re amazed at what you see. Enthusiastically, the farmer tells the stories of what is for sale: heirloom varieties in all shapes, colours and sizes that are highly nutritious and grown organically. How can you walk away empty-handed from this delicious-looking produce?

Tina Fraser Baynes could have been the farmer we met in this vision. She grew up on a fifth generation traditional farm in Ontario, growing cucumbers for Bick’s with her father, but moved west in the late 1970’s. When Tina ate organic cherry tomatoes – the “best in her life” – for the first time at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant in San Francisco, she never looked back. Tina devoted herself to organic farming and co-founded organizations like the Moss Street Market, Linking Land and Future Farmers, the Canadian Organic Growers – Vancouver Island chapter, and the Land For Food Coalition (LFFC) which lobbied the municipal government and the Agricultural Land Reserve to save parcels of land in our area from development.

The land that LFFC ended up saving in 2001 became Haliburton Community Organic Farm, which was established as a non-profit community and educational organic farm. Haliburton is a demonstration site, not only for certified organic and sustainable farming practices but also for natural systems restoration in the area surrounding the farm. Tina is Haliburton’s farm manager and in 2006 she established the farm’s first apprenticeship program in organic farming.

Tina is not only a farmer, but an educator in many ways. One of the things she loves most is chatting to people that visit Haliburton’s farm stand about food. She says that people can easily learn about local food by talking to the farmers that grow it. Ask about a food’s history or even how best to cook it. Wondering what else you can do to support our community? Shop at local businesses like small seed and container companies and buy seeds directly from farmers as well. Donate time, money or equipment to organizations like Haliburton Farm that are dedicated to preserving land for food. Grow heirloom, old-fashioned varieties in your own garden. Talk to a farmer or someone transitioning to farming to learn more. Participate in whatever way you can.

Tina Fraser Baynes is just one organic farmer in our region who is patient yet relentless in her quest to ensure a local and safe food supply. In addition to her work at Haliburton, she operates her own 2-acre Corner Farm, teaches courses in organic farming as a business and high yield organic farming at Camosun College with Mary Alice Johnson, and continues to work with other local farmers and organizations in support of our land. Tina says that on Vancouver Island we only grow about 10% of the food we eat; her optimistic response is to work hard in what she believes in and to persist in educating the community about the benefits of local food.

Next time you stop at that organic farm stand on the way home for dinner, don’t forget to talk to the farmer as you fill your basket. Along with your nutritious purchase, you might just come away with some more knowledge and satisfaction. You’ve helped someone in your community make a living and you’ve contributed to preserving the land that we all share.

Check out my last Faces & Places column on Designing Women.

3 thoughts on “Supporting local food and farmers

  1. Really enjoyed this post about the organic farm stand. I always learn something here and get a good link. It helps me learn how to blog also!!!


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