Who are the farmers at Glade Valley?
Ruth Fraser and Glen Sorenson. Ruth does the hands-on, day to day, all-things-garden – the planning, planting, weeding, harvesting; Glen is the infrastructure man (fencing, tractor work, building – he doesn’t pull weeds or pick tomatoes). Glen has an excavating business that has been the foundational support of the farm through its growth.
What do you grow?
For the Co-op and other stores: cherry tomatoes; approx. 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, green beans, zucchini & parsnips. We grow a bunch of everything to feed ourselves, family and friends the year round — fresh, canned, frozen, and cold storage.
How would you describe your farm operation?
We live on a beautiful, mostly-flat 12-acre piece of land on the bank of the Kootenay River (with an excellent swimming hole for those hot summer afternoons), at the south end of the community of Glade, and bordering on forested crown land.
In addition to ourselves, we have our lovely canine companion Cassiopeia (Cassie), a handful of turkeys and beautiful Mistral Gris chickens for their meat. Three and a half acres of this land are certified organic fields surrounded by elk fencing. We have five greenhouses of various sizes in which all of our tomatoes grow.
Why did you decide to become an organic farmer?
Ruth says: “It’s easier to look back and see the bits that brought me here. I always loved growing food. In my early years, my family lived in a city but had a rural garden for awhile. My parents modeled a great appreciation of fresh garden produce around our table. Once on my own, I lived in Toronto for 13 years — and from the first year, I would find ways to grow vegetables — perhaps in pots or little patches of urban yard. Back then it was just tomatoes, zucchini, basil and hot peppers – great for making soups for winter.
Oddly, a break-up from a long term relationship had me yearning for a rural farm to find healing. And two years later, after a bunch of years of giving what seemed like my everything working for dance companies in Toronto, I paused to consider that there might be something more for me. I took a break and ended up wwoofing on a fabulous farm in the Fraser Canyon – the love affair was immediate and it has been lasting!
As for being an organic farmer, there was never a question about that for me. And as soon as I knew that I wanted to grow food for other people, I knew I wanted my produce to be Certified Organic. On the one hand, being CO brings a fair price for my efforts, but equally, there is accountability built into certification that should give the consumer confidence in what I’m producing. And the standards of certification have contributed to my practices far beyond what can or cannot be sprayed. I believe the values of certified organic and fair trade are good values — respect for and stewardship of the land we live upon and also for the people who care for it — a nice model for our grandchildren’s world!”
What are some of your greatest joys?
The stuff of poetry really — the snapshots in time…
The dew sparkling like diamonds on the spider webs in the fence just as the sun peaks over the mountain.
The first ripe tomatoes bursting in my mouth after months with naught but canned, frozen and dried.
The satisfaction of wandering through my yard to find the things to make a beautiful dinner.
Watching a small snake slaying a small rodent for its meal gives me faith that there is still balance out there.
The transformation of the seasons as we travel around the sun. The excitement and opening up of spring, the physical intensity of summer, the tidying up and preparation of fall and the sweet hibernation of winter. Truly living with the seasons is such a blessing.
What are some of your greatest challenges?
Hail. Unexpected frost. Wicked winds wreaking havoc on greenhouse walls.
And helping hands. Besides a helper that works 10-15 hours/week, I do all the gardening. There is a part of me that would like to grow more, but I must remember to work within my physical limits – and efficiently – so that I can keep doing this for years to come. I have yet to meet the person who could share in the business and grow with it – but my mind wanders there sometimes and stays open to such things.
If you could deliver a message directly to co-op members/customers, what would it be?
Keep supporting your local farmers – become a local farmer – encourage your children to grow food — we need more farmers! And it’s a beautiful way to be!
Originally published in the Summer 2014 Issue of On The Table.
See additional Farmer Profiles here.