By Jenna Dallmeyer
I am a member of the Glen Valley Organic Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and I recently had the special opportunity to meet the farmers behind the food. The Glen Valley Organic Farm Co-operative is run by members with the shared purpose of sustainably farming and stewarding their land. The 50 acre farm property is located in Abbotsford, near Fort Langley. The CSA program is run by Glen Valley Organic Farm, a partnership between Close to Home Organics and Earth Apple Organic Farm. The farmers I had the pleasure of speaking with were Chris Bodnar, co-manager of Close to Home Organics, and Eric Wirsching, Farm Operations Manager for Close to Home Organics and CSA Program Coordinator for the Glen Valley Organic Farm.
Relationship to the land
Chris has been farming at Glen Valley Organic Farm for 12 years. When he was telling me about farming, he sounded like more of an ecologist. It is clear that he takes an agroecological approach to growing food—he spoke about feeding the soil, not the plants. He wants to be a true steward of the land in all facets. He even mentioned that the co-op has plans to restore a wetland on the property with help from the BC Wildlife Federation.
Close to Home Organics has a 5-year lease with the Glen Valley Organic Farm Co-op, which has now been renewed twice. The co-op handles infrastructure, letting the farmers focus on farming. For instance, last year the co-op upgraded their freezer for the farm businesses operating on the property. The only condition of the lease is that the farmers maintain the organic status. The farm is certified with the BC Association for Regenerative Agriculture, which is more rigorous than most other organic certification bodies.
ABOUT CLOSE TO HOME ORGANICS
The farm and the farming team
Close to Home Organics has 7 acres in production and is run by 8 staff (6 full time equivalent). The farm is managed by Chris and his wife Paige Dampier. Several of the staff have worked there for many years.
Biggest sellers and selling markets
Although they grow a variety of vegetables and fruit, the biggest sellers are salad mix, carrots, head lettuce, berries, and rhubarb. Their biggest market is the 160 member CSA program, with about 95% of their produce going towards the boxes. To build in some resilience to this great responsibility, they operate the CSA program collaboratively with Earth Apple Organic Farm. They also sell produce at the Langley farmer’s market, Lonsdale Quay farmer’s market, and to a few select restaurants, such as Aphrodite’s in Kitsilano and the Watershed Arts Cafè in Langley.
Relationship to the land
Eric has been getting to know the land over the last few of years. This spring, Eric graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program. He started working with Chris and Close to Home Organics during his practicum in 2016 and was hired back to coordinate the CSA program this year.
Role in the farm operations
Eric is responsible for coordinating the CSA program, an important role where two farm businesses are working together. This involves helping to coordinate the weekly harvest and delivering all of the communications for the CSA program – he sends weekly forecasts to CSA program members and provides updates on what’s happening at the farm and the Okanagan fruit partner farm, Snowy Mountain, in Cawston. Eric also helps process the vegetables and fruit to get the boxes ready for delivery. Last but not least, Eric also works in the field and is responsible for seeding and taking care of the plant starts (without this, the members would definitely not have their wonderful weekly delivery of vegetables!).
Greatest joys and challenges of working on the farm
For Eric, one of the greatest joys of working on the Glen Valley farm is working in a team. He likes his boss, Chris, and is learning a great deal from him. Close to Home Organics has provided him with accommodation and food as well. Eventually, Eric may want to invest in a farm and his own infrastructure when the time is right, but for now, he is enjoying not having the hefty responsibility of running a farm business alone.
The challenges Eric has come across include dealing with repetitive tasks, a common work challenge in the farming sector. He is also working on being okay with making mistakes, learning from his experiences, and staying committed to developing new skills.
Eric first became interested in agriculture through watching Netflix documentaries. There was an array that he watched about the impacts of conventional agriculture, the environment, and food security. During school, Eric took a particular interest in agroecology. The course he took on this topic at Kwantlen he found to be quite impactful. Much beyond farming skills, he said the program allowed him to develop his worldview and environmental values. Amongst all the complexity he was discovering that led him to a farming career, his goal was, and is, quite simply: “If I want to be able to live, I should be able to grow food”.