Terra Park and Robert Jay are probably more excited than most as the snow rapidly melts in the valley around Revelstoke.
As soon as its gone, the owners of Terra Firma Farm get to start working on their new farm at the site of Nelles Ranch on Highway 23 South.
Their new home is only a few hundred metres away from their old one, but it’s much larger and the soil is better. “We’ll probably double our production this year, and then get bigger every year,” said Jay, when I visited him and Park at their new farm a few weeks ago.
Terra Firma was started by Park and Jay eight years ago on Mount Begbie Road, on a property overlooking the City of Revelstoke. They diligently worked to convert the soil and develop it into a viable organic farm, selling seed starts and produce at the Farm & Craft Market in the summer, and at Mountain Goodness and Le Marche.
Last year, they jumped at the opportunity to expand and grow with the purchase of Nelles Ranch, a former horse breeding farm that changed hands several times until Jay and Park acquired it last summer. “The opportunity just came up,” said Park. “We knew it would be a lot of work but it seemed it would be worthwhile.”
They said they were running out of space on their Mount Begbie Road property, where they were limited to farming 1.5 acres of land. They also said the soil was much better here and would require much less work. “It’s almost a no-brainer the soil here,” said Jay.
It was hard to get a complete vision of their new location when I visited, with the ground covered under a blanket of snow. Their new property is about 30 acres total, six acres of which is flat, arable land they’ll be able to farm. They’ll be starting with three acres this summer. and expanding every year until all the available flat land has been cleared and planted.
Their plan is to increase the quantity of what they make, as well as add a few more kinds of produce, such as corn, to their offerings. “We’ll have more of everything. A few new things, but basically more of the same,” said Park.
They also want to raise livestock on the parts of the property not suitable for farming. “Chickens for now. Eventually, probably pork,” said Park. “Maybe sheep if Rob gets his way.”
They’re building a new home on the property that will also have space for plant starts, a washing station, and a suite for a farmhand.
One of the new projects they have going on is a partnership with Okanagan College to see if salad greens can be grown inside a greenhouse during the winter. They have two greenhouses set up, one with a single layer of plastic, and one with a double layer. The former lets in more light, but stores less heat, while the latter lets in less light, but traps the heat better.
They are using heat generated by a compost pile to warm the garden beds. The greens were covered to help trap the heat and were just beginning to sprout. “We have three years to figure it out,” said Park.
Park and Jay have a busy spring ahead of them. Once the snow melts, they’ll get digging to install an irrigation system. “We’ll plow it again, then we’ll start planting,” he said. “As soon as the snow’s gone, we’ll be on.”
When asked about their hopes for 10 years from now, they hesitated. “We want to work off the land and have it in full production,” said Jay.
After a bit of hemming and hawing, he spilled the beans: “We were thinking about changing the house into a farm-to-table style restaurant down the road to use up any seconds or things we have,” he said. “That’s not for at least 10 years before we explore it.”