Putting the Young in Young Agrarians: Growing on Gitxsan Territory

Posted by Jolene Swain on May 15, 2020 1 Comment

One of the most common questions we get is whether Young Agrarians has an age limit. The answer is no! We are happy to support the young and the young at heart when it comes to folks growing food and stewarding land. Noah definitely falls on the young end of the spectrum, he is the youngest farmer I know.  From an early age, Noah developed a fascination with growing, getting into propagation by taking clippings from all the house plants and potting them up. “For awhile, we had a huge surplus of plants around the house” says Jacob, Noahs father. At the early age of 11, Noah started bringing his plants and tree seeds, and soon enough, vegetables, to the Hazelton Farmers’ Market in Northwest BC.

First Farmers Market - 2015, age 11

The Northern Three Sisters

His passion for growing and selling vegetables evolved when the family started a garden in their back yard, inspired by Jessica, Noah’s mom’s Permaculture course. Noah took to gardening pretty seriously, amazed that you can plant a seed, and watch it transform into a full sized plant you can eat. Experimenting with companion planting, he learned about the three sisters, a vegetable trio that sustained Native Americans for centuries. In the north however, corn doesn’t grow as well, so Noah substituted one of his many favourite plants, sunflowers. He learned that beans aren’t as good a companion to sunflowers, so he replaced those with peas and is substituting the squash for cucumbers.

The three sisters adapted for Northwestern BC, stay tuned for updates!

Noah watering in blueberry plants, 2012 age 9

The Magic Science of Seed

Noah’s Garden Store evolved, providing food and plants for sale locally through the farmers market and the local grocery store. Noah is always eager to talk growing and share his passion for plant life, Noah’s favourite thing about growing food:

“I love the fact that there is literally an unconscious life form protruding through the dirt that is reproducing itself through carbon in the air and producing a meal we can eat. The magic science of it all… I love that you can feed everyone you want and you just have to plant a seed and wait a few months.”

Noah’s younger brother Ezra (an up and coming local musician who has taken to the stage at the Kispiox Valley Music festival), thinks farming is “pretty cool”, especially the harvest, but sees himself more of a mechanic-farmer.  With guidance from Jacob, Ezra is the main helper for any mechanic work that needs to be done on the farm, of which there is plenty as the farm came with it’s fair share of tools, vintage tractors and miscellaneous equipment.

Land!

It was always a goal to get closer to living off the land, and with Noah’s passion for farming not to be hindered, the family (by consensus) found their chosen piece of earth. After much searching, the Beaton family purchased land near the small village of Gitwangak in 2019, and haven’t looked back. By visiting farms and farmers locally, and across North America, reading and nerding out on farm guides, they have been implementing tools and practices to ramp up their production to almost an acre this season.

Committing and experimenting with trial and error, the family has invested in some of the tools and equipment they need (and want – who can resist the greens harvester) to get the job done efficiently. “The wood-chipper has been indispensable and makes use of the abundance of poplar on the land which we can use for pathways and mulch, instead of importing materials” says Jacob “time, energy and money we are investing in now, will hopefully have long term payoffs so we can feed ourselves, sell to the local store, and give away and trade with the community”, adds Jessica. Sophia Mather and family (below) are one of many friends and family who enjoy the bounty (and might get their hands in the soil while they’re at it).

Giving back to the community

“As visitors on Gitxsan territory, it’s important to give back” says Jess, “we haven’t been able to do that yet because every time we give something away, we get more back.”

Feeding the community has a lot of value to the Beatons, and the whole family has gotten behind the farming endeavour, recently coining the farm name and logo, Tea Creek Farm. The bunny in the logo is homage to the name of the Gitwangak First Nation territory on which the farm resides which means “Place of Rabbits.”

Food Security in the North

“Covid-19 has really exposed food security issues in the North”, explains Jacob, “local sustainable farming is the way of the future, and critically important to our communities. Stressed supply lines and food shortages are a reality when you are not the highest priority for food distribution in the province”. “Farming, even just gardening, is a beautiful, awesome thing to do. Anybody who has hands and feet and eyes can do it, you don’t need ears or a nose to do it”, says Noah, half seriously. The Beaton family is focusing on what crops to grow, and increasing their efficiency and productivity by incorporating tools techniques to help manage the workload, which has been daunting at times. “We almost lost all the wind in our sails last season after digging potatoes by hand, hardly had the energy to get some garlic in the ground” laments Jacob, this year, they have a potato harvester ready and waiting, so they won’t have to go through that again. Expect many potatoes coming from Tea Creek Farm this season!

When the family isn’t too busy farming, you can find them hunting, foraging, preparing, and preserving the nourishment that the land and natural environment provide.

To hear more about Noah and family’s adventures on the land, including instructional videos for food preservation,mechanics, and driving lessons. Follow Tea Creek Farm and Noah’s Garden Store.

If you are a Young, or Young at Heart, Agrarian and are interested in learning more about Young Agrarians in Central & Northern BC, get in touch with jolene@youngagrarians.org and join the Central & Northern BC facebook group to share news, events, or reach out to growers and friends of growers in the region.

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