Hello New Westminster!,
I hope you have not been waiting too long to find more about the farm that I now call home. My sincere apologies for the delay, the farms duties seem to get in the way. No, I am serious, this is not just an excuse. Earlier on this week, the Klippensteins informed us (the apprentices) that they had come across a great offer on three greenhouses, which they could not refuse. While previously we had thought we would continue the jobs of pruning trees and raking the ground, we boldly launched ourselves into the task of dismantling the three greenhouses. To give you an idea of the enormity of the task, each greenhouse measured 30 ft. wide, 100 ft long, and 14 ft high at the centre. Six of us took the poly plastic covers off the greenhouses, unbolted or unscrewed the supporting frame, and hauled the load onto a flat trailer.
Ironically, as the shortest person, I spent much of that time on the farm’s only 12 ft. ladder. I had to carefully balance and stretch as I ratcheted to unscrew the middle pole of the frame. I guess that’s my fault though: I asked to take over that job! The whole operation took three days to take them all down. The first greenhouse took the longest amount of time as we figured out what actually needed to be done. By the second and third greenhouse, we had all the necessary shortcuts in place. In the end it all amounted to one tough, body-aching week. I must also mention that I have not built anything since grade seven Tech Ed. so I went into that handicapped. I now know what a ratchet is and how to use it but I am still not much further then I was before. There you go, my anecdote for the week. Now onto what I promised.
Klipper’s Organic Acres is a 40 acre farm in the heart of the lower Similkameen Valley. The area itself is located in bunchgrass (desert) ecosystem and has characteristic strong winds. This area features ponderosa pine, cottonwood trees, sage brush, California quail and many other interesting creatures, many of which are endangered species. Its unique ecosystem poses a unique challenge to agriculture, in that lack of rain and high winds quickly steal any existing moisture and topsoil. Nonetheless, crops – if well cared for – thrive.
Klipper’s produces a diverse selection of ground crops, tree fruits and have chickens that provide eggs. This farm (and farmers) in comparison to others are still young but in the 8 years of existence have proven to be ahead of their time. This is obvious in their commitment to organic principles. They are certified organic but often go above and beyond what is required of organic status. For example, they have a small coop of free-range chickens which during the winter time receive no artificial light. This practice, which is allowable to a certain extent for organic farms, forces chickens to lay more eggs than they naturally would in that particular season. Another example: fruit trees such as apples have a two-year fruiting cycle, every other year they rest and bear no fruit. Often trees will be sprayed, possibly with zinc, so that they produce fruit every year. Klipper’s Organics respects these natural resting cycles. In addition, they even have solar heated water in the building I’m staying in! They sell their produce to Vancouver residents through a CSA (community supported agriculture) program and at the Vancouver Farmers Markets. I would encourage you to have a look at their website (www.klippersorganics.com) for more information.
You may now be wondering, what is required to apprentice on a farm? To apprentice at Klipper’s Organics, I filled out a questionnaire (sort of like a cover letter), updated my resume and sent those two documents out. Soon after I was emailed to arrange a date for an interview. This interview was conducted at the Vancouver Trout Lake market, but I arrived early to help the Klippensteins out at their stall. This involved the arduous task of sampling gala apples and yellow watermelon. It was fun and helpful because it forced me to learn more about the farm so I could answer market shoppers’ questions. Afterwords we sat under the trees and they explained how the season worked, what tasks I would be expected to do and asked me the same questions from the questionnaire to re-iterate and develop what I had already stated in print, such as why I was interested in farming. Of course I also had the opportunity to ask them questions but that was hard because I was just excited to be a potential apprentice.
One thing they had stressed throughout the interview was that it would be hard work and that they were interested in people who wished only to experience the idealistic “country/farming life” rather then actually farming itself. To put it in their words, “this will not be a vacation”. I left feeling confident that I had expressed myself well, and all that was left was a yay or nay. Turns out, that was not the end of it: Kevin emailed me back requesting I come visit the farm. I hesitated; on the application questionnaire it had asked if I would come up to see the farm, to which I had written “no”. It was the distance that scared me; I was not really looking forward to taking the Greyhound back and forth. In the end I changed my mind, for after all it was my goal to become a farmer’s apprentice and I could not let a small thing such as that get in the way. So I set a date, and got a ride up with them and spent a Saturday night and a Sunday at the farm. In the morning on Sunday after a scrumptious breakfast of oatmeal porridge, Kevin showed me around the farm. I did not get to see everything as the farm is 40 acres, but what I did see provided much clarity as to the operations of the farm. In the afternoon, Kevin, Annamarie, myself and another potential apprentice tackled the task of removing and recovering their greenhouse with a poly plastic layer. It was a cold, dirty and exceptionally physical task, and I was really sore afterwards but felt good having completed the task. At night we had a lovely meal of squash and basmati risotto. We spent much of the time conversing not necessarily as a formal interview but to get a sense of each other and the “working relationship”. In the morning the final decision was made: I would be apprenticing in the upcoming season!!!
Well there you have it! Until next time, fair market goers!
P.S. Actually, tearing off plastic paled in comparison to taking down those three greenhouses. If you missed my last post please check it out by clicking here.