FARM THE BASIN: Back to the Biointensive Basics with the Kootenay Society for Sustainable Living (VIDEO)

Posted by Hailey Troock on February 01, 2019

Farm the Basin: Back to the Biointensive Basics with Kootenay Society for Sustainable Living

Sharon and James are sustainable mini-farmers, natural builders, and environmentalists. Over the last five years they have been on a journey to become self-reliant and to transition towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Amongst meeting and learning from a variety of experts in their fields, as interns at Ecology Action they studied under John Jeavons to learn how to not only grow their own complete diet, but to bring sustainable agriculture back to their community as teachers. All of their experiences have led them back to what’s most important: to help build a strong, healthy community of localized and sustainable living.

The bring this dream to life, Sharon and James founded the Kootenay Society for Sustainable Living, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and protection of our natural resources, and the restoration of soils, habitat and biodiversity. They are growing sustainability through the teaching of biointensive organic mini-farming, natural building, and permaculture.

Their most recently launched initiative is the Feed a Family Project, which seeks to become a blueprint and foundation for a new kind of community-supported-agriculture (CSA). They envision a system that doesn’t rely on a single large farm to produce food for many but on many small gardens sharing and supporting each other.

On September 15th, 2018, Young Agrarians was invited to the Meadowbrook Farm for a Grow Biointensive demonstration and made this short documentary about the inspiring work that is being done there!

Find the Kootenay Society for Sustainable Living on Facebook and follow them on Instagram @growsustainability. Read on to learn more about Sharon and James’ journey farming the Basin!

How did you find land and/or your land arrangement?

We found the land we’re currently farming through YA’s online U-Map that allows land owners to connect with farmers! We have built a strong relationship with the land owners and they have been incredibly supportive of our projects and have contributed significantly to our success! Thank you so much for providing such a valuable tool and for striving to help young farmers find accessible land opportunities in BC!

What brought you to the Kootenays to farm?

We moved to the Kootenays for the clean air and water, the friendly and supportive community that makes us feel welcome and for the opportunities our son Lincoln will experience living amongst such amazing people! We know that Grow Biointensive farming will work in any climate and so we felt comfortable following our hearts in choosing Kimberley to set our roots and settle down for the long-term. Oh and of course, we LOVE mountains!

What do you enjoy about farming in this region?

We really enjoy the challenges of the climate and that we’ve been given the opportunity to show just how productive Grow Biointensive can be no matter where you’re growing food.

Grow Biointensive Demonstration with Kootenay Society for Sustainable Living
Talking grains with Sharon and the group

What are the most common challenges you feel farmers face in this region?

We believe the most common challenge for farmers in our region is access to land. With our current real estate market in BC it’s virtually impossible for farmers to purchase land. Pouring all you have in to a piece of leased land without any long-term guarantees is also a risky endeavour that discourages many who are interested in farming. There are acres upon acres of depleted hay fields and grazing land that could be converted into highly efficient and regenerative mini-farms, and many farmers who would jump at the opportunity. Another challenge we’ve identified is the assumption that our climate isn’t suited to farming, and we’re working to dispel that assumption by showing farmers just how much you can grow in a three month growing season!

What is your favourite thing to grow and why?

Our favourite crops to grow are the cereal grains! Rye, Wheat, Barley and Quinoa to name a few. There’s a deep and ancient knowing that comes forth when you see these crops growing, something engrained by our ancestors that gives a sense of familiarity and comfort. They provide us with nutrient and calorie dense food that keeps all year, they adapt to their local environment year after year, and they provide us with life giving biomass for our soil. They’re also magnificently beautiful!

How important is community to your farm? Tell us about your farm community!

We feel that our community should be the foundation of our farms. When food is grown with the intention of feeding others instead of making a profit our methods of producing food will shift towards long-term sustainability instead of profitability. We envision a community where many small farms work together to provide for each other and to work collectively to increase local food security and reduce our impact on the environment. That’s why our primary focus is empowering the people in our community to grow their own food using sustainable practices and growing crops we’ve identified during variety trials as excellent producers in our climate.

Seed preparation in square plots for transplant to beds
Grow biointensive seed preparation demonstration with James

What are you most excited about for the coming season?

We’re really excited to continue our research in the coming season and to expand our education outreach, but what we’re most excited about are the relationships we’ll build and the amazing people we’ll meet who are as passionate about our community’s sustainability as we are! The people who visit our farm for workshops and tours truly inspire us to keep going and fill us with optimism for the future.

Do you have off farm income to help make it all happen? 

Sharon is a successful Registered Massage therapist and works year-round to support our family financially, and James works with Kimberley’s Winter Sports School during the winter months. Our hope is to eliminate the need to work off-farm during the growing months so that we can both focus full-time on teaching and expanding outreach to more areas of our community.

We’re sure excited to see how the work of the Kootenay Society for Sustainable Living unfolds!


This farmer profile is part of an ongoing series exploring farming in the Columbia Basin / Kootenays. There are some seriously inspiring humans growing amazing food – and many opportunities for new entrants with vision and drive! If you’re interested in farming the Columbia Basin, reach out to our Land Matcher in the region, Hailey, to explore land opportunities and other ways YA can support you in realizing your Basin farm dream!

Connect with Hailey at hailey@youngagrarians.org and learn more about the B.C. Land Matching Program.

Want to see your farm or farm-related project featured in our Farm the Basin profiles? Reach out to Hailey! 

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