It’s harder to interview your partner than you’d expect, as David and I discovered when we interviewed each other about our farm start-up. Together, we make up Plenty Wild Farms. We began farming in Agassiz, on land borrowed from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, and recently moved to our own land in Pemberton.
Alyssa Belter: So, what’s your name?
David Tanner: David Stuart Tanner. No, just David Tanner. David Tanner Junior. Wait, did you just write all that down? No, just David Tanner. Wait, did you just write down all of that? (Laughs). Just David Tanner. Stop typing.
Alyssa: Where are you from?
David: (with British accent) I hail from the moors of Coquitlam. (Giggles). Just say I’m from Coquitlam. Where are you from?
A: St. Albert, Alberta. When were you born?
D: Uh, 1987. When were you born?
D: Month? Date?
A: No, I’m not giving out that information! What’s your favourite farming activity?
D: It’s a tie between weeding and going to market. What’s your favourite farming activity?
A: Hmm. I don’t know if I consider myself a farmer. My favourite farming activity to watch is probably haying. I love the process – watching the field get cut, the hay turned over, bales popping out and then getting collected by the bale wagon.
D: What do you consider yourself?
A: I don’t know. A cheese-maker on hiatus? Where do you farm?
D: The Pemberton Valley.
A: What’s the name of your farm?
D: Plenty Wild Farms.
A: How many acres do you farm on?
D: We have ten acres and this year we have three in vegetables. Can you tell us the history of the land?
A: Yes, actually I can! I just read this great book about the history of Pemberton from the library. From what I remember, this plot of land was one of the first to be cleared and farmed and settled. It changed hands a few times before it was bought by the family that we bought the farm from, in the early 1900s I think. Apparently they used to have dances all the time in our living room. Sounded real fun. The original house was built in 1927 but burnt down in something like fifteen minutes. There’s an interesting account of it in the book too. Anyway, this house was built in the early 1930s, not sure what date –
D: How long have you been on your land?
A: A little less than four months. How did you get into farming?
D: Um. (Frowns). (Sighs). I don’t know. Stop writing down what I’m saying! (Makes evil squinty face). I need to think! (Leans back). I think I was always interested in farming, even at a young age.
D: Probably from reading lots of James Herriot.
A: Who’s James Herriot?
D: He was an author/veterinarian. From Yorkshire, I believe. There’s actually so many things that contributed to it – meeting you, I’d always loved being outdoors, working outdoors. I was interested in food and where and how it was grown. I’d also always been very physically active. And James Herriot. How did you get into farming?
A: Well, my Dad grew up on a farm and when I was a kid we’d always go visit my grandparents there. I have a lot of really great memories from that – the yearly cattle drive to take them to their summer pasture, playing in the woods and the hay loft. I’ve also read all the Little House on the Prairie series. Anyway, I guess I was always attracted to the idea of living on a farm. In university, I got really interested in cooking, and as a result I also started to get interested in where my food came from, how it was being grown, the connection to big environmental issues. I guess it just seemed like something I could do to make a difference when most of the time I didn’t feel like I could. And then I met you, and you wanted to be a farmer. And I was interested in farming too. I volunteered on a few different farms in the Victoria area. Then you did your apprenticeship with Cropthorne Farm in Ladner. And I got to visit and get a glimpse of this kind of small-scale intensive farming. I read a lot of books, you read a lot of books, we talked about lots of things. Oh, and around the same time I got really excited about cheese, and did a cheese-making internship. Then we went to Alberta together to work on a farm, learn more about working with animals and I continued learning about making cheese. We had decided that this was it, we were going to be farmers, and hey, maybe we should just farm wherever it was the easiest to start up, even if that was Alberta. But we missed B.C. and by the end of the season we decided we were going to go back. And right when we were trying to figure out exactly how to do that – where we’d go, how we’d find land – I was offered a cheese-making job at the same place I’d done my internship, Farm House Natural Cheeses, in Agassiz. Debra and George asked you if you’d grow vegetables for them. They were going to set up a bakery/ café and wanted to be able to source everything from the farm so they needed a vegetable grower. That plan ended up falling through but by then we were already there, and the land was already plowed, and Plenty Wild Farms had begun! What’s your motivation to farm?
A: That’s it?
D: Yes and no. Money is a tool. It allows me to grow lots of food for the community. And to be a steward of a piece of land.
A: Anything else motivate you?
D: Animals. I love animals.
A: Do you have any farm animals?
D: No. I have a girlfriend. (Brief scuffle ensues). And some mice.
A: Do you have plans to get some real farm animals?
D: Yeah. This season we’re getting pigs, and a couple dogs.
D: Yeah, we’re gonna name the dogs Oats and Barley. What’s your motivation to farm?
A: Well, knowing that we’re growing super healthy food that people are gonna eat and make delicious meals out of and share with their families and friends and that we’re taking care of our land and that we’re, yeah, part of the farming community and keeping that tradition going. Selfish reasons too – it’s beautiful and we get to eat amazing food. And yeah, I like making money too. You need money to keep doing it.
D: What do you love the most about the land that you farm?
A: I love that it’s my home. What do you love most about our land?
D: I’ve only been here five months so it’s difficult to say. The scenery is amazing.
A: What inspires you to keep farming?
D: I’m not sure anything inspires me to farm. It just feels right. It just fits. Does that make sense? I don’t need inspiration to get up in the morning.
A: And why not?
D: Cause I love doing it. I love everything that is involved. I love what I do. And I love the idea of doing it for the rest of my life – growing old on a farm, having kids, passing down what I’ve learnt. I also get inspired by other farmers that I know and (long pause) yeah, the possibility of creating a better future. What inspires you?
A: Mountains. What’s your biggest challenge farming?
D: Staying physically fit. Wait, that sounds like I’m physically unfit. My knee and my wrist. Staying uninjured. That would be the true answer but I don’t like the way it sounds.
A: Cause it sounds like sometimes your body isn’t up for it, even if your mind is?
D: No, my body is always up for it. It just hurts sometimes. What’s your biggest challenge on the farm?
A: You. And the dog next door. What did it feel like when you acquired your land?
D: It felt great. (Smiles). And a little unreal. And great. What about you?
A: Surreal. What farming tool do you wish you had?
D: A big tractor. (Laughs).
A: How big?
D: I don’t know. As big as they come!
D: I think it’d be pretty cool.
A: If you had a farming superpower what would it be?
D: I could transform into a tractor.
A: If you weren’t a farmer, what would you be?
D: A transformer. (Laughs). Wait, don’t say that. What would I be? (Grimaces). I don’t know. Maybe a firefighter? What would you be?
A: Uhhh, a cheese-maker. What’s your favourite thing to grow in Summer?
D: In the Summer? Um, spinach. (Laughs, while slapping table).
A: (Bangs table). I feel like you’re losing interest!
D: I’m not. I’m thinking. You shouldn’t be harassing me. I’m your interviewee. Probably eggplant. Or peppers.
A: How come?
D: They’re diverse and beautiful.
A: What’s your favourite thing to eat in the Summer?
D: Are you making these up now?
D: I just said, didn’t I?
A: That’s to grow. Favourite vegetable to eat.
D: Probably mustard greens.
A: In Summer?
D: Well, I don’t know. My favourite vegetable, year-round, is arugula. What’s your favourite thing to eat in Summer?
A: Tomatoes, corn and ice cream. What is your least favourite stereotype about farmers?
D: I don’t like the dichotomy that farmers are either heroes or villains. Does that make sense? I don’t know if dichotomy is the right word. Narrative?
D: Okay. Just the idea that all farmers that grow conventionally are bad people or bad farmers. I’ve learnt from all sorts of farmers.
A: Yeah, I could see that. I think there is a perception that it is conventional versus organic. But we’re all farmers. Everyone grows in a way that works for them. What do you think about the future of farming in B.C.?
D: I see a very positive future for farming in B.C. What about you?
A: I think we already have a vibrant and diverse farming community in B.C. I can only see that growing as more enthusiastic and educated people get into it, and as those who are retiring are hopefully able to pass on their knowledge. We do need governments that actually support farmers though, of all types, and are committed to them being successful.
3 thoughts on “Plenty Wild Farms – The Agariannaire #3”
Hi Alyssa, I just read your article in this week’s Question and had quite a giggle, thank you. I read it out to Van as well, and when I got to the part about the hidden jigsaw pieces I told him I used to do that! I forgot all about ‘those days’…so thanks for the chuckle and have a wonderful, prosperous, New Year. Roxanne
Thanks Roxanne! Glad you enjoyed and all the best in 2015 for you as well!