Feeding the Local Community: Guest Blog by Archie McNab, Farmer & Entrepreneur

It is an honour to have Archie McNab write a guest blog post for Recipes of My Home. One of the reasons we moved to Vancouver Island was to have access to fresh produce and farm stands. I have been buying food from his Farm Stand in Yellow Point on Vancouver Island since we first moved here almost 2 years ago. I was ecstatic that fresh produce was only 5 minutes away from where we live. In the summer, I make a weekly pilgrimage to buy carrots, cucumbers, beets, squash, beans, peas and patty pans.

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I had the pleasure of formally meeting Archie this fall. Archie, along with five brothers and sisters, operate a small scale farm in Yellow Point. The farm was purchased by their parents in 1960 and has been in a constant state of evolution and change ever since as they move towards a much more inclusive version of farming. Read more about the evolution of the McNab Corn Maze & Produce Farm here.

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To make a long story short, I took Archie up on his offer to write a guest post for Recipes of My Home. My hope is that he will continue to share his experience, wisdom and point of view as a local, small scale producer. His first post gives an insight into the changes small scale farming has undergone over the last several decades and how those changes impact farming families.

With demand for local and sustainable produce growing exponentially, there is no time like the present to bring awareness to and discuss the challenges as well as opportunities that come with such a venture.

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Feeding the Local Community‘ by Archie McNab:

I have watched with a mixture of bemusement and admiration as society makes a massive sea change in how they view food. It isn’t just in the growing of it, there’s more to it than that. It’s in how it is viewed, presented, obtained, cooked (or not), eaten and even being used as a status symbol. And finally, in how we treat the discarded or unused food.

When I grew up with my five siblings pretty much everything we grew, we ate. And if we shot it, we ate that too. All leftovers either went to the dogs (who also served as guard dogs for the animals) or to the chickens. Waste was minimal and if there was any at all, it went out into the pea patch along with the wood stove ashes.

Trees were selectively harvested. We only cut what was marketable or what was dead and would make good firewood for that winter. Old machinery was patched up, wired together and repurposed. Oil was used over and over until there was only sludge left and then it was used as chain oil in the power saws or as lubricant for shafts and couplings. Lumber was used and reused and used again. Used nails and spikes were straightened for another go round. Old hot water tanks became culverts.

However, as one brother points out, we weren’t green to be fashionable or to score brownie points or even because it was the right thing to do. We were green because we were poor. And we weren’t alone. Every other farmer that we knew was poor too. Of course, growing up inside this culture, we kids had no idea we were poor. We had clothes (often hand me downs) and always had lots to eat. In fact, I would say it’s safe to say we ate more pheasant and venison that most of the royalty in Europe did back in the day.

But my point is this. If you want local food, and I am very sure that we do, support your local producer. Whether it’s the wine or beer you drink, the honey you put on your food or the greens that you fill your bowl with, do your very best to make sure it’s local.

As a farmer, I promise you this. If you show us that you are willing to spend your dollars for our food, we will bend over backwards to keep producing more and to encourage others to do the same. If farming is a viable way of making a living don’t you think more people would be inclined to take it up as an occupation?

There are benefits in being a farmer, you are your own boss (when the spouse isn’t around), you eat well and most of all you have the satisfaction of knowing you are producing good food for people to eat. It is also very humbling to receive all the thanks that we are given for doing what we do.

I encourage everyone to take the time to grow some of your own food, to appreciate the effort that goes into it and the satisfaction when you harvest it. Look up your local producers of food and get to know them. They in turn will gladly tell you of other local producers and before you know it we will have a vibrant, local food economy.

Our island once produced over half of the food that was consumed here, now it’s down to less than 10 percent. That is something we can change, if we choose to.

Thanks for listening.

Archie

Further Reading

  1. Small Farm Canada is a national magazine that  promotes small-scale farming as a legitimate and viable endeavour. The magazine’s editorial position is that the lives of small-scale farmers and their families are worthy, complex and rich in possibility, and that the communities serving small-scale farmers are unique and dynamic. Through attractive, well-written, independent-minded articles (free of orthodoxies) the magazine entertains, informs, inspires and challenges readers across Canada.
  2. The Canadian Organic Grower Magazine is for those who are interested in growing or consuming organic and sustainably produced food, then you’ll enjoy this magazine!  Our aim is to provide practical and timely information useful to growers and eaters across Canada.  We also cover important developments on social, economic and regulatory issues relevant to organic production in Canada.

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