Hobby Farming On Vancouver Island
I recently had the great opportunity to spend a couple of days on Northern Vancouver Island visiting and photographing two hobby farms, the Green Farm (Kate) and the Menzies Farm (Angela). These two family run small-scale hobby farms have been working together for awhile, sharing a table at the Port McNeill Farmer's Market, coordinating the produce they grow to maximize variety and alternating weeks running the table on the weekends. They recently decided to make it more official and have named their cooperative "Creekside Produce".
While they each have a small acreage, the amount dedicated to growing produce and raising their chickens would fit on a large city lot so it was neat to see the large variety of food they are able to grow in this space and have enough excess produce to sell at the local farmer's market.
Spending a day with each of them was not only really fun, it was really inspiring and I learned a lot from both of them. This is the first of a 2 part series on these wonderful small scale growers and is all about my day with Catherine Green (Kate or Katie). (Read part 2 on the Menzies farm here.)
Nurse, Farmer, Mom, Wife And Chicken Momma
Katie and I have been friends for years and as soon as I arrived I was greeted with excited hugs, a baby chicken (Chickypooo, Killa or KFC depending who you ask, lol) cuddled up in Katie's arms (apparently cute baby chicks seriously competed for Kate's study time while recently acquiring her masters degree) and the promise of a delicious lunch with some fabulous Saltspring Wild Cider. I already wanted to move in!
Kate and her husband Mike live on a small acreage on the beach with a beautiful sunny exposure. They have built a beautiful West Coast style home with gorgeous spruce beams and fir cabinets. Kate has decorated their house with interesting and beautiful local art (much from local Port Hardy shop Café Guido) pottery and other finds from island markets and when I was there, she had vases of blue and purple flowers from her garden everywhere including her outdoor patio table. Her attention to detail makes the space both breathtakingly beautiful and comforting at the same time.
The Vancouver Island property was homesteaded by the Tarkanen side of Mike's family many years ago and there is even an old graveyard on the property! They have built a large fenced square garden area (necessary for keeping the deer from eating everything) and a large chicken coop with a fully netted in chicken yard surrounding it (to keep predators away from the chickens). Katie raises chickens for eggs (and for the fun I suspect) and supplied many classes in local schools with chicks to incubate and hatch this past spring and now has a very large flock! Their future plans include adding a greenhouse to extend the relatively short growing season.
Hobby Farm Crops
They grow a variety of produce some which are permanent; raspberries, tree fruits, blueberries, rhubarb, beautiful multicolored eggs (which I wrote about in this post about urban chicken farming) and other fruits and veggies which change seasonally and yearly but usually include kale (one of Kate's personal favourites), radishes, cucumber, zucchini, many types of lettuces, arugula, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, peas, beans, herbs and so much more.
Why Have A Hobby Farm
The garden started as a hobby and to feed and teach her children about growing. While I was there, Kate's passion for teaching and making healthy food accessible for all was very evident. Not only does she want to grow food for her family and the farmer's market, she loves to encourage others to grow food for themselves even if they only have a small space.
Encouraging Health With Food
As a public health nurse, she also loves the opportunity to walk young mothers and other clients through cooking basic, healthy, nourishing food for themselves and their families. She sees first hand the change that this can make for people who didn't grow up with fresh home cooked meals. She gets excited as she teaches and sees them realize how simple it can be to make a vegetable or chicken soup, a salad of fresh vegetables or cook some fresh fish and that it can be affordable too.
Running A Small Town Farmers' Market
Kate and Angela have been instrumental in getting their local farm market off the ground and keeping it going. In previous years they have tried selling at a rotating location (Sointula, Alert Bay, Pt. Hardy and Pt. McNeill) but that made it hard for people to know which week they would be in each town and did not help create a regular customer base. They now sell at the Pt. McNeill market which runs bi-weekly though the summer.
One of the programs Kate is most excited about is the farmer's market food coupons for expectant mothers. The coupons are given out as healthcare professionals see need and can be used at any farmer's market for fresh food. She sees this as a way to not only meet a need but to help build a strong community as well.
An excerpt from the BC Farmer's Market website states, "The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program (FMNCP) is a healthy eating initiative that supports farmers’ markets and strengthens food security across British Columbia. Community partner organizations hand out coupons to lower-income families and seniors participating in their food literacy programs. These coupons can be spent at all BC farmers' markets that participate in the FMNCP to purchase vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, dairy, cut herbs, meat and fish. Each household enrolled in the Program is eligible to receive a minimum of $21/week in coupons."
You can read more about it, donate or even get involved at the BC Farmer's Market webpage or join one the the Facebook groups, North Island Farmers and Artisans Market-Port McNeill or HardyLocalFoods FoodShare to read more about their involvement in it.
Food Fresh From Kate's Garden
As we talked, alternately sitting and sipping the delicious Elderberry/Flower Cider and taking photos, Kate picked a beautiful salad of green and red lettuces, arugula, flowers from her radishes and more. We then moved into her kitchen where she offered the kids fresh mint tea (simply fresh mint leaves in a mug, hot water poured over and steeped a few minutes-one of her kid's favourites) and pulled some perfectly baked salmon out of the fridge from dinner the night before.
I made a simple salad dressing out of some just-picked raspberries from her garden to dress the salad, Katie added chunks of the delicious salmon and we sat down to a simple and delicious lunch that I have been dreaming about ever since.
Below is the salad dressing recipe, the instructions for simple baked salmon and Kate's wonderfully simple and delicious fresh Peppermint Tea. Whether you are picking your own or supporting your local farmer's market, there's no better time of year to eat fresh and local.
Related links to this story
Here's how to find Kate's fabulous gardening shoes (rubber to keep dirt out) for any chicken lovers, the cookbooks in this story and the pectin she uses for jam and jelly:
Sobo Cookbook, an extensive collection of recipes from the iconic Tofino restaurant. (I also have this cookbook and highly recommend the Margaritas and Polenta Fries!)
Sea Salt Cookbook, simple and delicious West Coast recipes geared to cooking on a boat. I wish I had this back when I was fishing with my dad!
Bernardin's Complete Book of Home Preserving, classic and handy for jam to pickles and everything else preserving.
Certo Pectin, reliable standby for jams and jellies.
Chicken Gardening Shoes, there are no words, just chicken emoji's and yellow hearts <3
Cheers to you all and to cooking with real food.
Raspberry Salad Dressing
- ½ c Fresh Raspberries Or thawed from frozen
- 1 tsp Sugar
- ⅛ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Dijon Mustard
- 2 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
- 4 tsp Olive Oil
- Mash raspberries up with sugar and salt in a small bowl or measuring cup.
- Add mustard, oil and vinegar and mix quickly and well with a small fork or whisk until emulsified and pour over fresh salad greens.
Perfectly Baked Salmon
- 1 BC Sockeye Fillet (approx 1.5-2 lb or 800 grams) or other salmon fillet
- ½-3/4 tsp Coarse or Kosher Salt
- Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450' F
- Put fish fillet on a baking sheet, lined with parchment or tinfoil if you want an easy cleanup 😉 Sprinkle salt and pepper over fish fillet
- Bake 10-14 minutes, watching carefully at the end and taking the fish out immediately once barely cooked through. My oven cooks on the cool side and took 13 minutes for my 800 gram fillet.
Kate's Fresh Peppermint Tea
- 1 Large Sprig Fresh Peppermint (About 7-8 mint leaves)
- 1 c Water
- Heat your water in a kettle or the microwave until just about boiling.
- Pour the water over the mint leaves. Stir and gently bruise the mint leaves against the side of the cup to help release the flavour and let steep 2 minutes.
- Sweeten with honey or sugar if desired and enjoy. Mint is soothing for the tummy and relaxing for the soul.