My name is Roger and I’m farming in Surrey, BC at The Farmhouse Bard. I’m just starting my second season of intensive vegetable production in BC. For many years, I worked as a cook, cultivating my love for the various stories, scents, and colours of heirloom vegetables. I wanted to share the histories of curious things, like crookneck watermelons, and the tale of mortgage lifter tomatoes.
I also deeply believe in the power of farms to serve as hubs for communities to re-connect with their land: physically, ecologically, culturally, and spiritually. I farmed in Ontario and Vermont for four years before ending up on the West coast. This year, I’m especially excited to grow more Chinese veggies, and that was what I mostly ate as a child.
Why did you decide to lease land and what was your dream property?
Land access has always been challenging for the capital constrained. Contrary to traditional farming advice, I was inspired by Salatin’s words to find good neighbours over good land. Sure, I have the usual dream list of good drainage, gentle slopes, and fertile soil, but I find those things to be deeply unsatisfying if I was to have to manage challenging relationships in exchange. Especially in the case of a rental property, it was most important to me to find a landlord and community that shared in the vision I wanted to build.
Tell us a bit about the property you found through the Young Agrarians Land Matching Program:
The property I’m farming now is a few acres of heavy, heavy clay. Once productive, but now fallow and compacted over many years of neglect. You can taste the pain of the soil in those blistered summery tomatoes. Borne from the neglect of many seasons, it’s reflected in the dullness of those first carrots, as they pull the lethargy out of the earth. But underlying it all is a cautious optimism – a speck of sweet underneath the bitterness of the cucumber skin. It’s inspiring to see the soil biology come back to life, even after only a mere season of work. Slowly, the flavours become more nuanced, the Earth springing in response to my step, and soon, the delight of the ground will echo in the ecstasy of our harvests.
What was the landowner’s vision for their land?
My landlord grew up on the property, with memories of it being farmed with his grandparents. His vision is to return it to a productive space while contributing positively to the local ecology and I am more than delighted to be a part of that vision.
What was your experience working with the Young Agrarians Land Matcher?
Darcy, the YA Land Matcher, has the powerful ability to intuit and hold space for so many different perspectives, needs, and divergent interests – and somehow manages to bring them all together into a harmonious document that also stands up to legal rigour. I don’t think we give enough appreciation nor acknowledgement of the amount of emotional labour required to do land matching work.
Did you learn any lessons the hard way in your first season on the farm and what were they?
I’m not sure that it’s possible for my stubborn self to learn anything in a non-hard way.
Everything takes time. Waaay more time than I think. Also, that farming is apparently hard work. I mean, everybody says that, but I tend to curate an optimistic sense of naivete about the world so the difficulty of it all took a few months to sink in.
What excites you most about the future of your farm?
I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I’m not very excited about farming right now. It’s work that I feel is important to the community, meaningful to me, and something I feel deeply called to take on. But it’s stressful, scary, and frustrating work. Nature is a great humbler and it’s hard for my impatient personality to remember to slow down, do the work, and let things take time. In that sense, I guess I’m excited to be growing alongside my plants.
Roger found land through the Young Agrarians Fraser Valley / Metro Vancouver area Land Matching Program in 2017. We’re so excited to see how his second season goes and what insights he has next! Do you have land you’d like to lease to a farmer? Are you a farmer looking for land to lease? For more information about the Land Matching Program, please visit the Young Agrarians Land page!
Funding for the Young Agrarians 2018-19 Land Matching Program has been provided by the City of Surrey, Township of Langley and the Bullitt Foundation. Thank you to our amazing funders.