Farm Legacy Letters: Pete Amyoony

Posted by Alex on October 05, 2020 6 Comments

To future generations: 

My farm is 10 acres in the hamlet of Dunster, B.C., on the north side of the valley on a bench above the Fraser River with amazing southern exposure. In the short days of winter here at the 54th parallel, our side of the valley gets more than double the amount of sun from the other side. This is such a help with starting crops earlier in the spring and growing later into the fall months. Even though our high latitude only has 90-100 frost free days some years, on the long summer days when we receive up to 18 hours of daylight, the crops grow in leaps and bounds.

I have always grown ecologically. I use a lot of composted manures, compost, and a few trace minerals when they are needed. One of my main sources of income on the farm has been the bedding plant business which I carried out in the greenhouse from mid-March until the first week of June.

I was 56 years old when I took over this farm so was a bit past my prime for expanding the operation but was able to pay off the place in 10 years from the produce and bedding plants income. I am now 79 and am slowing down, so in the past couple of years have tended to cut back on all of the operations. I have cut back to about 15,000 bedding plants for the past few years and find I cannot be growing the amount of mixed vegetables and potatoes I used to. The remainder of the 10 acres is forest which is difficult to keep from taking over the cultivated areas. 

Being from a long line of lifetime bachelors, I was a bit worried as to how I would find someone who would want to continue using the property and caring for it so it would be better when the years went by. Property values in this area like many other places have gone up in the past 20 years so younger people interested in farming cannot afford to buy land outright.

I hope to be able to make this land available to a young person or couple who have their whole life ahead of them to improve and use the land to make their living and to help make the local food security more of a reality than it is today. More local healthy food grown to feed local people at a reasonable price would make me so happy. I see one of the greatest needs of our society is to take back control of the food supply from the international corporations and put it back into the hands of local growers.

I have owned the farm since 1996. When I came here there was a raised bed garden in front of the little cottage and the other open areas were used as horse pasture. I cleared some large cottonwood trees to make a small orchard, set up my 25×50 foot greenhouse and tilled up a quarter acre garden area. I also planted raspberries and strawberries as a pick-your-own operation. In the second year, I planted 16 fruit trees in the newly cleared orchard, and pushed back the bush in another small opening as a potato patch for my collection of over 80 varieties of potatoes. At that time, I had a collection of 150 varieties of heritage tomatoes which I grew out for seed on a three-year rotation.

I remember best the first weekend after I moved onto this place, local friends organized a work-bee to help me erect the big greenhouse and get settled in. About 30 people showed up for the day and brought along a potluck lunch and they had me unpacked and had the greenhouse set up before the day was over. 

The big rush of people buying bedding plants in May brings the place alive after the quiet winter months.  All the summer visitors who come to visit and help out on the farm bring a new energy to the place. Gathering around the little kitchen to prepare a meal of fresh produce and local meats and share it with friends is such a treat and feeling of community. 

The most beautiful sight every morning as I come down from my loft is the view out the two big windows overlooking the Cariboo Mountains across the Valley. I love the smell of spring each year as the snow melts, and the smell of soil and the rich earth in April and May. The sound of the owls calling at night and the coyotes howling are like music to my ears. The feel of the new tips on the spruce trees are like silk when they first come out. Working in the greenhouse among the basil plants is one of my favourite smells each year. I love the first young carrots and radishes in the spring as they are so sweet and crunchy. The first cucumber and the first ripe tomatoes are such a treat after eating the commercial ones all winter! 

I am hoping to pass on this little gem of a farm to someone who will appreciate the southern exposure, the silty loam soil, the underground root cellar and the access to water that make it a perfect spot for a small market garden and a place to live. This is my very top goal because I would hate to see it be owned by someone from out of the area who would not contribute to the social life and health of the community.

I can only hope that whoever takes over this farm will love and protect the natural beauty of this place – both the cultivated part as well as the natural forest that keeps this land and its inhabitants (human and otherwise) healthy. 

This little 10 acres has since 1952 been home to many families and produced tons of food and over a million bedding plants to feed people from all over the valley. I would like to express my sincere thanks for the amazing gift it has been to live on and steward this little piece of heaven. May all who come after me be so blessed! 

Pete Amyoony

Dunster, BC

Read Legacy Letters from other farmers and write your own letter to future generations here:

6 thoughts on “Farm Legacy Letters: Pete Amyoony

  1. Pete’s beautiful legacy letter has me sitting here crying with the utter beauty of his words.
    What he has created, shared and enjoyed is magnificent!
    I believe we should have reverence for Farmers , Apprentices, Families, Food, Land and Water.
    I sincerely hope Pete is able to find the next stewards of his beautiful farm.
    Thank you for sharing this letter. There is hope and compassion all around us, if we care to look.

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