Over the past few years of living on a farm, I have been lucky enough to chat with some pretty fantastic fellow growers and farmers that are doing some very interesting things.
From farmers with hundreds of acres who have hundreds of cattle crazing, to people growing on an urban homestead, there is no shortage of interest in a sustainable lifestyle and diet here in the Kootenays.
My husband E and I were brainstorming the other day after having met some incredible farmers right here in Cranbrook. He suggested to me that I start to dedicate some of my columns to the fellow growers and farmers who inspire us daily. What better way to meet like-minded people. Plus, I get the chance to chat with them and maybe learn something, too.
So, over the summer I will be introducing you, dear readers, to some of the farmers and growers in our region. Whether they are new to the area, or have been farming their entire lives, I thought it would behove me to speak with the pros and get their take on this crazy, but oh-so satisfying lifestyle.
I recently chatted with Kye Kocher of Corner Veggies. He and his wife Laura-Leigh, and their baby Ambrose live in Jaffray. They moved here just one year ago from Calgary to start their farming journey by way of a market garden. He told me how a serendipitous trip to Cranbrook turned into a major lifestyle change – one they are grateful for.
As their Instagram points out, they are an urban family, starting a small farm in a big way.
“We lived in Calgary for the past 12 years. I studied English Literature in university – which has nothing to do with farming – but for various reasons I ended up urban farming in Calgary. I was helping to install kitchen gardens in backyards,” Kocher explained. “Laura-Leigh and I had been talking about moving to B.C. for quite some time…so last year we were looking for property. We were told about one in Jaffray that wasn’t listed on the market. We literally went there, knocked on the door and, through a serendipitous turn of events, we ended up putting in an offer and purchasing the property.”
Kocher says it’s a modest parcel, and the previous owners had set up a market garden – which Kye and Laura-Leigh are now carrying on.
Corner Veggies currently has radish, spinach and mustard greens, which they are selling at the local markets. Much like myself and E, they will also be growing everything from squash and flowers to cabbage, green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peas and more.
“It’s kind of crazy, we have a 15 month-old baby, and we moved away from home. We don’t really know anyone in the area, but starting a garden is a great way to meet people,” said Kocher. “That has to be one of my favourite parts about farming. I really love meeting the customers and the community.”
Corner Veggies will be selling their produce at the Cranbrook Farmers’ market over the next few weeks, and you’ll also be able to catch them at the markets in Baynes Lake, Fernie and occasionally Kimberley.
When I asked Kocher what his advice is for new farmers, such as myself, he said to start small.
“Even if it’s one tomato plant in a pot, it’s worth it to grow [your own],” he said. “Start small and grow what you eat. Also, choose sure wins like kale and lettuce, that sort of thing. You’ll be more motivated to grow and maintain things that you eat on a regular basis.”
I have always found that one of the best parts about visiting new gardens (and growing a garden myself) is to witness the biodiversity and mini ecosystems that are created through the soil, plants and practices. Being able to watch a butterfly as it flutters throughout the squash patch, or a spider as it lures in its prey amongst the dill, it’s a wild and wonderful experience.
Kocher agrees. He says that the diversity of the garden is what keeps him going and it’s what makes the farming lifestyle so enjoyable.
“When the farm is thriving with insects, veggies, flowers in bloom, you feel like you’re really participating in nature.”