Tribute to Nette Lack and Mad Dog Farm
Nette Lack of Mad Dog Farm has been supplying the Kootenay Co-op for nearly two decades, first as a farmer with her late husband Jeremy and most recently as a small batch body care supplier. Nette has decided to hang up her supplier hat, and recently made her final delivery of Mad Dog’s much-loved lip balms and farmer’s hand cream. These products were made with her own hand harvested beeswax and when Nette lost most of her bees this past winter she decided not to replace her hives. At this momentous juncture, with the final regular delivery of Mad Dog products to the Kootenay Co-op, we wanted to express our deep gratitude for the countless contributions that this supplier has made to our cooperative and our community.
Nette and Jeremy Lack emigrated from the United Kingdom and established their small mixed farm in Tarrys in 2000. Assistant Produce Manager Matt Lowe recalls that they brought a “burst of energy to our local food scene.” The Lacks quickly became known for their innovation, intelligence, passion, charisma and work ethic. Their increasingly diverse farm evolved over the years to supply unique and heirloom produce varieties, plant starts, fresh dried herbs, apiary products, and they maintained an invaluable seed bank.
“I appreciated their energy and innovation to try new and exotic things,” said Matt. Ben Morris, Produce Manager interjected “One year they brought us yams!” Ben and Matt remember Mad Dog Farm constantly pushing boundaries. They also note that Nette and Jeremy were part of a symbiotic system that made it all possible: “Nette and Jeremy were such a strong team…they worked in sync, their relationship created the magic.” Known for their commitment to sustainable agriculture, the Lacks abhorred the use of chemicals, using the slogan “no pesticides, herbicides, or whatever-cides.” Goals of biodiversity and sustainability imbued all farm decisions, including the addition of bee hives, originally for pollination and later contributing to Nette’s value-added body care products.
The energy of Mad Dog Farm spilled over into the larger community. The Lacks prided themselves on their open farm policy, inviting community members to visit anytime, and hosting many farm tours, school groups and courses. They inspired countless eaters. Our Assistant Wellness Manager Caleigh Kerekes shared that her family was part of Mad Dog Farm’s CSA program. “Picking up our delicious veggies each week at Nette and Jeremy’s farm was the highlight of our week!” she said. “The care and attention that they put into growing their beautiful food was incredible!”
Co-op Board President Abra Brynne worked closely with the Lacks on several local food initiatives. “I had never met such dynamic, interested, interesting, and dedicated farmers – dedicated not just to their own farm but to the food systems and communities of their adopted home region and of the broader world.” As Abra notes, “Nette and Jeremy Lack have had a huge and positive influence on the West Kootenay foodshed.” Among their many contributions the Lacks are best known for spearheading the Kootenay Local Agricultural Society (KLAS).
I first met Nette and Jeremy at one of these early KLAS meetings around their kitchen table, and I was inspired by their combination of knowledge, passion, and business acumen as well as their sheer ability to get things done! Their home computer was busy printing off Kootenay Mountain Grown stickers and newsletters including important information on everything from cropping and marketing to the politics of food. Our Kootenay Co-op was also closely touched by the Lacks’ community involvement. As Operations Manager Paul Kelly noted, the Lacks played an “appreciated and vital part in the Co-op’s evolution.” Jeremy served on the Kootenay Co-op Board of Directors from 2006-2012 and served as the President from 2009-2011.
Our collective hearts broke in February 2013 when Jeremy Lack passed away unexpectedly. Nette and her daughters maintained the farm for a time, but Nette eventually decided to sell the property to new farmers. Although Nette decided the whole farm was too much to manage, she says “I just couldn’t give up the bees.” She continued to supply the Co-op with her body care products, which she has always made-to-order from her own beeswax. Mad Dog’s lip-balms and Farmer’s Hand Cream were originally made for the Lacks’ own personal use on their farm, and they are beloved among members and staff for their effectiveness and quality. The wellness department describes them as some of the purest products that they have ever come across.
Unsurprisingly, Nette continued to share her abundant and passionate knowledge with the broader community in recent years. Now working as a secretary at Mount Sentinel High School, Nette started the bee program there three years ago. She has been thrilled to watch the students become adept beekeepers and see the hives create a venue for bee awareness programs for other area schools. The secondary students sell the honey they produce each summer to help support the program, and thus continues this ripple effect of future generations intimately mindful of bees.
Our Outreach Coordinator, Alyssa Nebel, first met her when Nette was managing the greenhouse and garden space for SEEDS. “I was so amazed at her wealth of knowledge about organic gardening,” says Alyssa, “she was such a great teacher…so easy to talk to and learn from.” As Alyssa notes, “I’m impressed with how involved in the community so many Kootenay-ites are, and I am sure that Nette will remain involved in ours. Even if we have to live without Mad Dog’s Farmer’s Hand Cream…maybe she’ll teach us how to make our own!”
Mad Dog Farm illustrates the myriad of ways that local farmers and suppliers shape our community, our foodshed and our cooperative. We are so deeply grateful for the indelible marks that Mad Dog Farm has left in the tapestry of the Kootenay Co-op. As our Board President Abra says: “I feel blessed and oh so grateful to have so many wonderful memories of Nette, Jeremy, their family, their kitchen table, and their farm.” We will dearly miss Nette as a supplier, but we wish her and her daughters all the best in their future adventures, of which we are sure there will be many!
-Nadine BenRabha, True Local Coordinator
First Published in On The Table, Summer 2018
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