With a passion to grow organic produce and raise high-quality ethical meat, Terra Park and Rob Jay have built one of the largest certified organic farms in the Colombia Valley.
With its ninth season well underway, Terra Farms in looking to continue its sustainable growth. Its philosophy is to “feed the soil, not the plant”.
Using this mantra, Park and Jay invest time and effort into soil management, ensuring healthy soils help preserve a sensitive ecosystem. This is done by recycling plant residue, animal residue and planting cover crops designed to help maintain the soil’s nutrients and allow for natural fertilization.
Over the course of a season, Terra Farms sections off plots of land to plant a cover crop such as rye and allow its livestock to graze there. It then uses the same plots for future seasons with renewed soil.
Things have changed for the farm quite a bit in the last decade. The farm began with just two acres of land across the road from where it is located now. Since moving to a larger area and clearing space for more produce and fertile soil, it now has four acres of organic vegetables and five acres for livestock.
And it’s not just the farm that’s seen change.
Park said the demand for locally grown food has increased.
She said it’s evident at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.
“There are a lot more vendors and a steady flow of customers all day, as opposed to just the morning rush it used to be,” said Park.
According to the 2014 Revelstoke Food Security Strategy, 98 per cent of the city’s food is imported from 250 kilometres or more from town. As more people are concerned with their diet and healthy eating, having locally sourced food is becoming increasingly important.
So, what are the challenges faced by farms such as Terra Firma?
For one, there is the long rainy season in the spring and fall.
Jay said it’s hard to cultivate crops until the fields dry out properlyand the moisture causes other complications, such as root rot. It’s also difficult to seed in moist soil, so Terra Farms transplants its crops, growing them indoors or in a greenhouse environment until the soil is ready.
The wind also makes running an operation with small greenhouses difficult.
Despite the challenges, however, Terra Firma Farms in growing at what it calls a very sustainable rate. Currently its CSA box program has 65 customers who stop by for 18-weeks to collect a variety box of organic vegetables and eggs.
The farm supplies a few different restaurants in town as well as the health food store and a few catering operations. It also operates a small food cart every Wednesday on the farm, which is located a kilometer down Highway 23 South from the Big Eddie.
And it also maintains a stand at the Farmers Market on Saturdays.