Our path to farming in the Cowichan Valley was a long one. While Niki grew up with a love of food, veggies fresh from her dad's garden, and visits to her grandfather's orchard, she did not realize she wanted to farm until well after she completed a degree in Agro-ecology. She chalks this up to the fact that farming wasn't really a career option that was mentioned at any point growing up, in school or even while studying agriculture at UBC. But after many summers working on farms and faced with the post-graduation outlook of an office job, she finally came to her senses!
School was not a complete digression though. It was at university where Niki was able to learn about the principles and practice of Agro-ecology and landscape design, where she connected with the UBC farm and completed an apprenticeship in organic agriculture, and where she met Nick.
Nick was a worldly fellow, having grown up in New England and Europe. He completed his first degree in computer science and philosophy, but was eager to gain some experience in "real world" disciplines. He thought architecture was the answer and although he completed his master's in this field, by the end of it he was more interested in designing farm buildings than skyscrapers. Not only that, he was ready to get out from behind a computer and late nights in studio. So it did not take much for Niki to convince him that farming was the answer he was looking for.
Shortly after graduation we left the city to spend the next four years working on various organic vegetable farms throughout BC. While we honed our craft, we were also keeping an eye out for a bit of land where we could put down roots (both metaphorically and literally). In 2012 we came upon this spot just outside of Crofton, in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. While it took some time to find our own place, we would not trade those years of gaining experience and learning from other farmers for anything! They were truly great mentors (and continue to be) and now when we look out at our fields we see a little bit of each farm in the various ways we do things here.
Ever since then we have been developing our farm and our markets. Starting as a one-woman show with about 1/2 an acre of vegetables in 2013, while Nick continued to work off-farm (although he put in countless hours on evenings and weekends). Nick's job allowed us to re-invest our profit back into the farm for the first three years, comfortably growing the business. In 2014 we doubled our area as Nick dropped down to a four-day work week at the office. In 2015, we doubled our area again with the help of two apprentices. All the while putting up deer fencing, installing field drainage, improving our soils, building the fleet of farm equipment, erecting greenhouses, constructing a cooler and wash area, and generally working our "balls off"! In 2016 Nick was finally able to quit his job and come back to the farm full-time.
In terms of markets, we have been at the Duncan Farmer's Market since our first season in 2013 and have been so pleased to grow with this market as it has come to flourish! In 2014 we added a small CSA, which has increased each year, as well as a farm-gate sale for our fellow Croftonites, and increased restaurant sales.
Along the way both our families have been immensely helpful; from Niki's mom packing carrots and making ample lunches, to her dad gluing irrigation pipes and digging potatoes, to Nick's folks who have travelled all the way from Maine on numerous occasions only to find a list of jobs to do when they arrive here. Nor could we have done this without all of their moral (and sometimes financial) support. Although we don't come from farming families, farming is still proving to be a family endeavour.
While we feel like we've accomplished a lot in the first few years, all we see when we look out at the fields are the many projects yet to be done! These include building a workshop, improving our washing and storage areas, bringing a new field into cultivation, installing more irrigation lines, establishing a small orchard, building a new house, and expanding our pond and drainage system (not to mention expanding our family, coming December 2017!). All this work could seem daunting, but some things are for certain: we eat well, we sleep well, and we are never bored.