A far cry from the small change collected at unmanned farm stands along country roads, the business of local produce has stepped up in the world in recent years, becoming a major player in the economy.
Saanich Organics, a co-operative between three managing farms and several contributors, supplies Peninsula residents, farmers’ markets and more than 30 businesses and restaurants with fresh, certified organic produce to the tune of about $350,000 a year.
“It’s supporting the local economy, and local economy is so powerful,” says Rachel Fisher, owner of Three Oaks Farm in Central Saanich.
Fisher, along with Heather Stretch of Northbrook Farm and Robin Tunnicliffe of Feisty Field Organic Farm, purchased Saanich Organics as a business in 2002 and has seen it grow exponentially.
Fisher herself works with just two acres on Three Oaks Farm, but gets tons — literally — of food each year, and the demand keeps increasing.
“We bag and sell about 600 pounds of salad greens a week in the height of the season,” she says. “We still can’t meet the demand for salad greens in the winter.”
And that’s just one crop. Three Oaks Farm grows a laundry list of fruit and veg, including carrots, eggplants, peas, beans, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, strawberries and basil.
“Everything that grows here, we have, and different varieties.”
It certainly seems to contradict opinions that two acres does not a productive farm make.
“It’s totally viable to farm on even one acre,” she says. “You can produce thousands of pounds of food.”
It’s important to remember the many hours of hard work that go into that acre, Fisher adds.
“A good balance is two people per acre, working full time,” she says.
Those thousands of pounds of food go out to the community through farmers markets, direct sales to businesses and through Saanich Organics’ produce box program. The latter combines the best of the harvests from all the farms and delivers it straight to your door, bringing home the ‘farm to table’ mentality, that has become increasingly important for a lot of people.
“If you know your grower, you know their practices, and you know what you’re putting in your body,” says Fisher.
“You have a bigger appreciation for food when you buy local,” adds farm co-manager Stacee Sloggett. “If you support local farms, you can feel good about that, because that’s a family you’re supporting.”
Sloggett, who came on as a part-time apprentice in 2011 and never left, is passionate about the local food movement.
“It’s bringing us all back together, in a time when there are so many things in society that are driving us apart.”
As well as continuing on with the still-expanding Saanich Organics, the next step for Three Oaks Farm is setting up a farm stand in July to better serve the residents in the area.
“We’re doing it to provide a place for locals to come and shop direct from the farm,” says Fisher.
Three Oaks Farm is kicking off the season with a plant sale tomorrow (May 16) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 7900 West Saanich Road.
For more information, visit saanichorganics.com or call 250-818-5807.