The Birds & The Beans Living Large In Paradise

Posted by Sara Dent on October 08, 2014

Re-posted from Hans Peter Meyer’s blog! HPM is very involved with the food and farm world on Vancouver Island. We’re excited to have him involved with the network. Check out this great blog post on The Birds & The Beans.

That’s farmer Jay Baker-French hiding behind the BIG kohlrabi from The Birds & The Beans, at the Comox Valley Farmer’s Market.

The Birds and The Beans is a new kind of farm in the Comox Valley. Launched in the spring of 2013 by Foster Richardson, Kelsey Knoll, Natasha Tymo, and Jay Baker-French, the farm is about more than growing and selling good food. It’s also about food security.

“Grain crops and dried beans are a big hole in our local food system,” says Richardson. “Our goal is to rebuild that capacity locally, to meet that dietary need.”

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Growing beans also has the benefit of improving the soil. That’s important, because growing vegetable crops is demanding on the soil. “We grow organically. We don’t have the option of using chemical fertilizers,” Richardson explains. Legumes – beans – are important for soil health, as well as overall community food security.

Land, and other trials

Access to affordable land is an issue for most new farmers. It’s the subject of recent research funded by the Real Estate Foundation of BC. Efforts to connect young people who want to take on the hard work of farming, with arable land that is lying fallow or underutilized, are being hosted by an innovative organization called Young Agrarians. For The Birds and the Beans crew, the opportunity to lease land at Beaver Meadows Farms is what brought the four Ag school grads to the Comox Valley. Our good fortune.

The first year saw many trials – including testing a variety of kohlrabi that Baker-French says was simply “too big” (see the pic!). In 2014 they’ve continued their crop trials (nine varieties of dried beans). They’ve developed a strong customer base at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market, and they sell through Sunshine Organics. You’ll also find the farm produce at several regional food outlets, including The Guerrilla Food Co in downtown Courtenay. Baker-French notes that Chef Aaron Railis “an awesome chef customer” at The White Whale Restaurant.

Selling at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

The springboard for this success has been their presence at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. “In year one we wanted to focus on the market,” Richardson explains. “We need to get our name out there, to meet people. It’s turned out to be a really great place to sell and we sell a lot of product.” This has enabled The Birds & the Beans to launch a CSA box program in year two. The summer program has come to an end, and the October-November program is just starting. At $20 a box, it provides a family supply of weekly local food.

For more information about The Birds & the Beans, meet the crew at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market on Saturdays through the fall, winter, and spring. Or visit their website or their Facebook page.

Growing Farmers at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

The market is a “farm incubator,” a place for new farmers to start their businesses. While many stay for years and benefit from direct customer relationships, others become independent of the market. As far as the market is concerned, it’s all good news. The more people farming, the better.

In an effort to help farmers market their product the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market is working with to produce a series of farmer profiles. This series is all about supporting community economic development in the Comox Valley.

You can follow Hans Peter Meyer on Twitter @bonvivantvanisl


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