Greg Hill and his family usually only grow enough food to feed themselves for two weeks, this year, due to the pandemic and worries about the food supply chain, he hopes to grow much more. (Submitted)

Revelstoke farmers ramp up production in face of COVID-19

Local athlete Greg Hill starts Revelstoke Growing Community forum

As a new normal settles over the world and precautions such as social distancing, emptying hospital beds and widespread sanitizing continue, the next priority for some is the food supply chain.

“I am really worried about everything from the farmworkers to the truck drivers to the warehousers to the grocery clerks,” said Melissa Hemphill, food security coordinator at Community Connections.

Local food production, something Hemphill has been working on for years, is now in the spotlight as grocery store shelves have sometimes emptied, migrant farmworkers are quarantined and truck stops have closed their public washrooms.

READ MORE: Concerns raised about COVID-19 quarantine rules for migrant workers

Hemphill sees the potential for increased demand for locally grown vegetables in the coming months. As chair of the Local Food Initiative’s market committee, she said they are working on how to make the market happen with the increased regulations due to the pandemic, including an online platform.

Hemphill is also working to bring a community farm to Revelstoke.

Though initially scheduled for a consultation process this spring, Hemphill said, given the likely impending need, she is attempting to bring the project to fruition this year. She has a core group of tenants and they are working on finding a location as well as an operational model.

“A community garden is a wonderful place to learn how to garden, in a supported, shared worked environment, but it is not a place to grow enough food to eat,” she said. “We need larger-scale growing than that.”

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Proud to call to call these women my ‘co-workers.’ Yes, we all work on different projects but I’ve always known that food brings people together and the past few weeks have confirmed that more than I could have imagined. Patti Larson (the strawberry 🍓) is the director of community outreach and development at Community Connections and she has been working tirelessly to keep our community and families fed. To quote Hannah Whitney (the corn 🌽) “life may be cancelled but food security isn’t!” She continues to do the food recovery pickups every morning and works with a team of volunteers to get that food to those who need it. Melissa Hemphill, wears her costume oh so we’ll, because she is, well very RAD-ish 😎 As Food Security Coordinator she is working on multiple different projects right now and trying to make food a priority for our community. The leek? 🌱 That’s me! Jodi, the LFI’s ED and Farmers Market Manager. I’m working on getting seeds out to the community and keeping our farmers market alive. A wonderful ‘quaranteam’ indeed 🙏 Thank you to @zoyalynch for her beautiful porchtaits and donations to the food bank. It is making a BIG difference! Head to the Community Connections website for ways you can contribute. Let’s continue to ‘come together’ through food 👍

A post shared by Revelstoke Local Food (@revelstokelocalfood) on

READ MORE: Canada unveils $50M boost to help agriculture sector with 14-day COVID-19 quarantine

Established farms in the area are also adapting, anticipating increased demand this year.

Sarah Harper and Stu Smith, owners of Track Street Growers, said it is an exciting time for local food.

Though the farmers grow enough food for themselves, they had been focusing on value-added products, such as honey and hot sauce. This year, because of the pandemic, they plan on growing more vegetables, specifically things that will carry through the winter, such as cabbage, onions, potatoes and squash.

“Because we don’t know what the food supply will look like,” Harper said.

The duo also has a small tractor they use to turn a lawn into a garden, within an hour. Though they had intended on stepping away from that part of the business this year, they are seeing high demand for those services.

Overall, it has been a busy time and Harper said she is stressed.

“It feels like the whole rest of the world is kicking back with a beer,” she said with a laugh. “We are in hyper-planning mode.”

Stu Smith and Sarah Harper of Track Street Growers will be growing more vegetables this year. (Sarah Mickel Photography)

READ MORE: ‘It’s frightening’: B.C. trucker on being on the road during COVID-19

Terra Park and Rob Jay at Terra Firma Farms had already been planning to expand their operations this year and are well situated to grow as much food as possible.

Park said she had doubled the number of seedlings she has started, which will be available for sale later this spring for those looking to plant their own.

Kristina Metzlaff, of Bird Tree Urban Farm, said the No. 1 difference in her operations this year is sharing her knowledge and information.

Metzlaff only has so much space, and many of her plans were made last fall and many more are still up in the air. She said she will continue to grow flowers, as she doesn’t want to pull up any plants, and will be doubling her tomatoes, as she can grow them vertically.

At this point, many of her plans are still up in the air.

READ MORE: Five ways to take action against invasive plants while stuck at home

Greg Hill and his family usually only grow enough food to feed themselves for two weeks, this year, due to the pandemic and worries about the food supply chain, he hopes to grow much more. (Submitted)

Others in the community are also thinking about the potential consequences of the pandemic on our food systems.

Greg Hill, a professional athlete, started a Facebook group called Revelstoke Growing Community, in an attempt to both keep busy, as well as generate awareness and enthusiasm about growing your food.

With Hill’s future as a professional athlete up in the air due to the pandemic as well as the increased time at home he had on his hands, he needed a project.

“Having my world flipped upside down has me reconsidering everything I took for granted,” he said. “I am re-examining all my expenses and extras and what I really need. These gardens are an activation of something I have wanted to do before but now need to do.”

To start, Hill is focusing on building his garden as well as encouraging others and building a community to share information.

But said he would love to be part of a bigger project in the community.

On the heels of the group’s creation, the Local Food Initiative launched its Garden Guru education series, virtually, to educate the new garden enthusiasts. These happen every year but started early due to increased interest. For more information see revelstokelocalfood.com.


 

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jocelyn.doll@revelstokereview.com

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