Willet Peak Organics is a young farm with a big heart in stunning Argenta, BC. Farmers Lila and Swen Birch, along with their energetic two year old son, have been operating their farm for two seasons with a focus on organic seed and table potatoes. Drawing inspiration from their grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and the vibrant farming community of the Lardeau Valley, the Birch Family is guided by a love for food, community, and the earth.
Read on to learn more about this great True Local Supplier…
Who are the farmers at Willet Peak Organics?
Lila and Swen Birch.
What do you grow?
Our focus is on producing Certified Organic and CFIA Certified disease-free Seed Potatoes for Local Kootenay market gardeners and the homebased, green-thumb garden lover. Of course many of these potatoes make it onto dinner plates too!
How would you describe your farm?
We are committed to learning from the land that we steward for feeding ourselves and our community. We are focused on potatoes primarily. We want to give our full attention to one crop during our learning curve of running a farm business. Grains and legumes are also grown on the farm as part of our rotation which are consumed locally and used to reseed fields.
Swen and I have grown this business from our shared love of eating good food, connecting in community and keeping needs minimal. Observation and experimentation guide us throughout the year. We are excited about our long term homebased project of turning forest into forest gardens of mushrooms and veggies.
How long have you been farming?
2016 is our second year as Willet Peak Organics but we have been learning with a diverse mix of producers for five years.
What motivated you to start?
Deep connections are created when we are rooted in right livelihood and care for our immediate environment and neighbours. We feel this is both necessary and personally fulfilling and are grateful to all those before us who have established a tradition of fruit and veggie production throughout the valley. Full bellies and healthy minds are key ingredients we need to cultivate for a vibrant community, contributing to the betterment of society as a whole.
Lila says, “I have always felt deep satisfaction when my hands are in the earth. Even more joy when I have the honor of harvesting food to prepare a meal for friends or family. I have felt especially guided by my grandmothers and great grandmothers, since establishing my life in rural Argenta; two of whom had growing food, wild crafting and cooking as key parts of their lives. Lasting memories of: pulling glowing carrots out of the garden and eating them immediately, dirt and all, all our faces beaming with joy. My great grandmother (in her youthful mid 80s) jumping on her bike to ride into town (rural mountain community in France) to trade her wild harvested herbs for eggs. These memories I chose to keep from childhood, so it is natural to me that I am engaging in this path of sustainable local agriculture! I feel it is absolutely essential for me to know exactly where my food has been grown.”
What are some of your greatest joys?
Our son alongside us learning and teaching in turn.
The openness and 360 mountain peaks around the farm.
Bridging the community we live in with the one we farm in.
Connecting with other farming families and sharing nutritious food.
Being of service.
Making garden altars for honoring with flowers and fruits.
What is your vision for your farm?
To operate with a Solar powered tractor. To continue to learn of ways to enhance long term soil quality to ensure healthy plants and bio-diversity. We have a longer term vision of cultivating our land in Argenta for veggies, mushrooms and berries.
Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
It is the freshest option! Food is a huge part of our physical experience and the closer our relationship with the process the more we believe we can cultivate respect for our earth. When we eat fresh organic local food (incorporating special varieties and lots of colour in our meals) we are getting the maximum nutrient benefit from the produce.
So really, to me, it seems that it would cost more to eat a non-local diet because so much is lost in time and transport. The proof is in the taste.
If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members/customers, what would it be?
Thank you for your commitment and support of local food. We encourage more young people to start farming and ever increasing support for buying local so we can put more of our dollars into sustaining local food networks. Go visit one of the farms you frequently purchase produce from!
Something I consider a lot is food waste. An action everyone can take that could contribute to less waste of produce would be to take a more natural/random selection when purchasing apples, for example. Reflect on this next time you are shopping: an apple tree does not produce 100% perfect apples…if everyone picks the unblemished one what is left looks worse and worse and often rots.
We can all have such huge impacts if we take action locally.
If you don’t have a garden or green space at home, find them and go there often and connect with the plants and soil.