We are Co-operators
We farm on a co-operatively-stewarded farm, and our businesses work together co-operatively from the sharing of equipment through to the marketing of our produce. We rely on a network of co-operatives to provide everything from our fuel through to our seeds and our financial services.
Connection with our Customers
We market through direct-to-consumer channels such as our Community Shared Agriculture program and Farmers Markets. Knowing our customers and communicating with them directly about the farm's activities is important to us. In return, our customers tell us that the connection they have back to our farm is an important part of understanding how their food is grown.
Small is Beautiful
We farm on a scale where we are able to be big enough to support ourselves, big enough to feed our customers and big enough to be able to farm according to our own social and ecological philosophies. The small farm is the foundation of sustainable agriculture. We envision a food system built on millions of small farms, employing millions of people in meaningful, socially and economically empowering work.
Fertility and Soil Health
To farm sustainably it is paramount to know that soil is alive. Here's something incredible: there are more living organisms (bacteria, fungi, insects, seeds and animals) living in one ounce of soil than there are humans living on the entire planet. The human population depends on the six inches of soil covering our land to survive. As farmers, protecting and nurturing this life is our job, and it pays off. We grow food that people seek out every season because it tastes incredible and makes people feel wonderful.
In order to maintain healthy soil, we feed it with compost made largely from municipal green waste. If you put kitchen or yard waste in municipal collection, some of it likely ends up in our fields. We also employ a regular rotation of cover crops. Cover crops put organic matter back into the soil, conserve nutrients and soil against leeching and erosion and break disease and pest cycles. Legume and clover cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil, which subsequent crops use to grow. Some crops, such as white mustard, can even deter pests by fumigating the soil when their natural oils are released into the soil.
Native pollinators and wildlife
The presence of native bees provides a significant pollination benefit to us. We leave grassy areas on the farm uncut to allow undisturbed space for ground-nesting bees. We also maintain housing for Mason Bees, which pollinate early fruit crops on the farm such as our apple trees. To feed our native bee populations, we plant flower belts and crops that provide a food source throughout the growing season. In addition, we have chosen not to use organic pesticides that are toxic to bees.
We also make space for wildlife on our farm. From coyotes and opossums to raptors and songbirds, our fields exist amidst a complex ecosystem that ultimately benefits our food production activities through rodent and insect management.
Crop Diversity and Rotation
Growing a diversity of crops is an important component of operating a viable, sustainable farm. Every season, some crops will do well, while a few suffer due to weather, pests or disease. Crop diversity is our crop insurance; we know we will always have an array of vegetables to take to market at any one time, because we grow over 40 different crops.
Our crop diversity provides other advantages as well. Some crops require irrigation, others do not -- we save money, energy and water because we don't need to irrigate everything all the time. Some crops require compost, others do not -- we maximize the fertility in the soil by rotating different crops based on their fertility needs. Some crops stay in the ground the entire season, others are harvested in 45 days, allowing multiple crops to be grown in the same space over the course of the summer. Through our crop diversity, we are able to maximize each bit of growing space on our farm by conserving water and nutrients.
All things considered, our crop diversity allows us to employ a full three-year crop rotation. Once we grow a crop in a bed, we won't plant anything from the same family in that bed for three years. This helps to preserve the health of the soil, while breaking pest and disease cycles.
We farm at Glen Valley Organic Farm, a certified organic farm. We think the organic standards are an important benchmark for establishing agricultural practices that respect the soil and the environment. We are certified by the BC Association for Regenerative Agriculture.
In 2011, Glen Valley Organic Farm became one of the first farms in British Columbia to be recognized as Salmon Safe by the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Fraser Basin Council. This means that we employ practices that protect Pacific salmon habitat.