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Get Stuffed - Organic growth

Community supported agriculture taking off in Pemberton Valley

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"It isn’t a cure but a cleaner diet made it better. He could cope," explains Brenda.

From that point on, the family started to grow their own vegetables for eating. An abundance of vegetables prompted Brenda to make up baskets of veggies for 10 of their friends and the next year 10 had become 40. The business has slowly increased to delivering weekly boxes of fresh vegetables to customers in Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish from June through to October.

The Millers have had nothing but great feedback about the taste and quality of their vegetables. Occasionally a smiling customer will show up at their doorstep holding up a vegetable in puzzlement – "What is this?" – but they are only too happy to educate people about trying new vegetables.

As the season progresses, vegetables are harvested as they hit optimal ripeness, as assessed by the small crew of loyal employees, learned gardeners themselves.

Customers of Across the Creek Organics never know what the contents of their harvest box will be each week as picking for ripeness is too unpredictable, but this appeals to many people. Some customers liken opening their weekly box to opening a weekly Christmas gift. Sometimes you may get an item you are not familiar with but it is the best way to be introduced to a new vegetable – when it is its freshest.

Bruce admits to not liking Brussels sprouts but after he tried them picked after a frost he realized that this was the real way to eat them. "They are so sweet and delicious you could make a whole meal out of brussel sprouts."

Brenda adds that she always knew you had to encourage children to try new things but she didn’t think they would have to with grown ups. As well as standard vegetables like carrots, broccoli and potatoes, the Millers are meeting consumer demand by adding more exotic fare like fennel, tatsoi, red mustard greens or kohlrabi, to name a few. Customer reaction has been very positive. The Millers have hosted what they call Harvest Dinners for friends to highlight different vegetables and the different ways that they can be used in various dishes. They hope to invite local chefs to showcase their produce the same way.

Consumers who choose to eat organically have a variety of reasons for doing so. Often this includes a conscientious effort to maintain bio-diversity while supporting herbicide- and pesticide-free farming, but it is also a political fist shaking at modern industrial farming.

Over the last 50 years or so the farming industry has changed dramatically. The movement of produce from farm to grocery store has become a complicated process that involves several different layers of distribution, often leaving the farmer little profit. In the case of organic farming, where weeding is regularly controlled by hand, the expense increases at the grass roots level, literally. Adding up the expense, not to mention the pollution, of trucking produce to a warehouse, the electricity needed to keep it refrigerated, another truck ride to the grocery store, exporting and importing duty and taxes, equals a lot of extra hidden costs, energy and decreased nutritional value in the food. These are strong, real reasons to make a conscious effort to support local farming by participating in CSA and shopping at farmers markets.