The Agrariannaire #1 with Tristan Cavers

Posted by Sara Dent on January 29, 2013

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Better late than never I say. This writing and photography project is from summer 2012. I think it’s still perennial to post since it sure is nice to remember warm sunshine during these winter days. Tristan did the being interviewed part, Darcy interviewed and transcribed, and I photo-ed and later edited. Collaboration rocks.

Photos by Sara Dent, from top to bottom of: Golden Ears Fruit Stand, Darcy Smith in the U-pick Strawberry Patch, Strawberries, Tristan Cavers, Le Cows, Paul Matheson, ‘Keep Calm Trot On’

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THE AGRARIANNAIRE — #1

Golden Ears Community Farm, Chase BC

By: Tristan Cavers, Darcy Smith and Sara Dent

This summer, these city-bound young agrarians got a little antsy, and took off on a treasure hunt. We made our way to Golden Ears Farm in Chase, B.C. in search of red gold— strawberry season! Golden Ears is a picture-perfect farm run by an amazing community of ecologically-minded farmers and WWOOFers. They raise pigs and chickens, grow corn, fruit, peas, and, of course, the u-pick strawberries that drew us there. We cornered farmer Tristan Cavers in the house he is recycling into his future home. As the subject of the inaugural agrariannaire, Tristan filled us in on the history of his land, why he loves farming, and what his secret farming superpower would be (we wouldn’t mind the same one).

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Young Agrarians (YA): Where are you from?

Tristan Cavers (TC): Here—Chase, B.C.

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YA: What’s your favourite farming activity?

TC: Pasture maintenance.

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YA: What’s your motivation to farm?

TC: Short answer? Just being outside. The flow of the seasons.

YA: What’s the biggest challenge to farming?

TC: Stamina

YA: What do you want to tell the world about farming?

TC: We need more of us- farmers, that is.

YA: Where do you farm?

TC: Just west of Chase, BC. But also Neskonlith.

YA: Neskonlith?

TC: It’s the language of the nation that was here for thousands of years before us.

YA: What’s the name of your farm?

TC: Golden Ears Farm. And fruit stand. And bike stand.

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YA: Can you tell us the history of your land?

TC: In the ’30s my grandfather cycled across Canada. He stopped here and saw the Veteran Land Authority (VLA) flats, where he worked as a railroad tie cutter. He fought in WWII and when he came back he was eligible for financing on a parcel through the veteran’s land act. He remembered Chase and sort of sight unseen chose this lot then came here with my grandmother and my mom’s brother. My mom was born here and they grew up just across from our fruit stand on the TransCanada. He farmed up until the late ’60s and then the farm actually left the family for all of the ’70s and early ’80s. In the ’80s we bought the farm and came up with the name Golden Ears. My family has been here since.

YA: When were you born?

TC: 1981.

YA: How long have you been man on the land?

TC: Nine years. We began our transition nine years ago. In theory ten years—for the first year I was working off farm and participating when I could, and so the year after was when we officially started transitioning through all the different facets of the business, because it is a farm and a fruit stand and it encompasses a lot more, farmers markets and more. Each season there was a new introduction to a new aspect of the farm.

YA: What appeals to you most about the land that you farm?

TC: We are in the widest part of the valley, and being in the widest part of the valley we create enough thermals that sometimes the dreary weather that’s heading for us gets pushed around and doesn’t hit us really- which can be a bad thing sometimes too.

YA: How did you get into farming?

TC: By working a bunch of other shitty jobs. I did enjoy fire fighting but I didn’t like the aspect of doing investment protection for Weyerhauser protecting the highest value trees first. With farming the only argument you have is with the weather and, you know, nature and you can’t win so there’s no real point in arguing. It’s just the flow of the seasons and you take what’s coming. I really like the saying that if a farmer’s not complaining they’re probably dead.

YA: What did it feel like when you acquired your land—in your case, when your father retired?

TC: He’s always here and my mom’s always here too, but I think the moment it was really serious was when I signed papers to buy a tractor for $20,000 and the most expensive thing I’d bought previously was a mountain bike. $5000 annual payments tend to make things a lot more real very quickly.

YA: How did that feel?

TC: I’d say because it wasn’t a ridiculous amount of money, it wasn’t a crazy mortgage- it gave some impetus to make sure that we were going to be able to pay the bills but there wasn’t a tremendous amount of fear. I know people- well I know one person who does this- who for the summer months sleep four hours a night and that’s it… I work hard but I don’t work crazy.

YA: What farming tool could you not live without?

Stirrup hoe.

TC: What farming tool do you wish you had?

Horses.

YA: If you had a farming superpower what would it be?

TC: Conjure horses.

YA: If you weren’t a farmer, what would you be?

TC: Uhhhh….. (long pause) probably back to forest fire fighting.

YA: If you could be anything…

TC: I guess some sort of health type person or something. I enjoy the aspect of being in the moment and a certain amount of adversity.

YA: Sounds like fire fighting! How does that reflect in farming life?

TC: I’m often in my element when things are getting fairly hectic.

YA: What’s your favourite vegetable to grow in Summer?

TC: Raspberries overall in terms of tastiness. And pumpkins are pretty fun to play a big game of pumpkin catch at the end of the year. Yeah.

YA: In Winter?

TC: Sprouted lentils.

YA: What have you had to sacrifice the most to farm?

TC: Nine to five friends.

YA: What is your least favourite farmer stereotype?

TC: The hippie-dippie sort of stereotype that we get specifically, and I think some of the others within our small locale. We’re butchering pigs, cows and chickens. It’s quite a bit more real than sometimes people think. We’re not playing at it. It’s definitely far from playing.

YA: What inspires you to farm?

TC: Most immediately the people around me: Paul, Kelsey, Rose, Kate, Will.

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YA: What is the biggest challenge farmers in B.C. face?

TC: The ridiculous price of land.

YA: What do you think the future of farming in BC is?

TC: Pretty good. It might come more out of necessity than anything else, but I think as long as we don’t eat up our good arable land base, we’ll be in pretty good shape.

YA: Do you have any last words for us?

TC: I think the biggest thing, being more rural here, is to reach out to the older generation and attempt to really communicate to them that the skills they have that mainstream culture has made seem unimportant— these really are important and they should be super proud of their abilities. We find we’re always meeting people and at first it’s hard to warm up to them but once they realize we are genuine and we’re into it they open up. There’s a wealth of knowledge that’s in jeopardy in terms of where everything is still going right now. It’s really important to be hybridizing the old and the new. I think so much of the new is just coming back again, it’s not even that new.

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