Wooden box filled fresh vegetables

Once upon a Farm

By Afke Zonderland

The bumper sticker “No farm – No food” is a good reminder to support BC farmers.

I count my childhood on a large dairy farm as one of my greatest blessings. Even though I permanently left farm life as my husband and I boarded a plane to Vancouver in 1971 to make a life for ourselves in Canada, the farm never truly left me. We saw our Canadian dream come true when, eight years later, we found a small acreage in the rural community of Grindrod to raise our three daughters. A perfect, unspoiled clearing against a forest of tall cedars and hemlock, overlooking the valley. Thirty-five years later, grandchildren are helping me rake the garden soil, dig for worms, and eat the berries off the vine.

Sharing my farm and garden experience as well as all the produce this little piece of tillable earth produces is a pleasure and a privilege that is increasingly important to me.  I find this to be a responsibility to our next generation. I believe that a better food future lies in people reconnecting with the soil on which we stand. Clean, black dirt! I believe that we all know on a gut level that food grown on dead, pesticide-soaked soil close to home or far away can’t be nourishing us, despite the scientific “facts” that show by numbers that there is no difference between organic or conventional growing.  (Ironically, 50 years ago conventional farming was organic and it did not cost anything to call it so!)

Good soil contains something like 72 different minerals and a host of bacteria and fungi; these are part of a thriving group of organisms that break down decaying compost to continuously replenish the soil. Good soil produces strong, healthy plants with a built-in immune system to keep pests and disease at bay. It so happens that these plants are eager to share these qualities with us so that we too may acquire a strong defence system to keep disease at bay.  My dad’s pet phrase, “Our cows are as healthy as the soil they graze on,” provides a clue as to why the health of the nation is becoming a liability as opposed to its greatest resource.

To exclude domesticated farm animals like chickens, turkeys, pigs, lambs, and cows from nature’s organic cycle of life generation after generation makes no sense either. I believe that organic farmers in sheer numbers will be tipping the scale in the near future, simply because you demand quality food and you understand the true value of eating quality food. (You may call me a dreamer, but I know I’m not the only one!)

Eight years ago I listened to President Obama’s inaugural speech while at Living Light Culinary Institute with 30 fellow students in Fort Bragg, California. The mood was full of hope and excitement! It was there that I became enlightened to the art of a raw food diet. The whole concept intrigued me and the food was as delicious as it was nutritious. I was ready to exchange my interior design business for a career in food and donned an apron and a hairnet to launch Okanagan Rawsome shortly after. However, I did decide that a 100 percent raw food diet did not suit a Canadian winter. Truth be told, it seemed a bit intense even in the summer. A vegan diet later morphed into a vegetarian diet which morphed into a somewhat flexitarian, qualitarian diet high in fat. Good fats, that is.

The principle of using only functional, quality ingredients is firmly “ingrained” in our grain-free Apple, Carrot, and Beet Crisps. It naturally follows in my gut-level type of thinking that you do what you need to do when you know what you know. Placing principles ahead of profits and creating food for families that is not just convenient but also wholesome is a personal blessing that keeps on giving.  We are keeping it raw as we gently dehydrate the local veggies and apples and mix them in with lots of sprouted seeds, flax, and coconut for a daily dose of Omega-3s. We are finding innovative ways to include produce from Okanagan farms as close to home as Enderby and as far afield as Keremeos.  We are super excited to be one of the finalists (Best New BC Product) at the Vancouver Specialty Food Expo with our Beet Crisps this year.

The bumper sticker “No farm – No food” is a good reminder to support BC farmers. We love our farmers and are so incredibly grateful for their dedication to their land and soil. Your new year’s resolution to buy more organic or more local produce has every chance to be the key that tips the scale toward being “Alive to Thrive.” 

Afke Zonderland is the enthusiastic chef behind Okanagan Rawsome’s Apple, Carrot, and Beet Crisps. Afke regularly hosts raw food workshops across Western Canada, promoting a plant-passionate foodie lifestyle, while sharing tasty recipes that will win over your taste buds. She is a much sought after presenter at gluten-free events and regularly writes for the CeliacScene™. Her best days are spent on skis and exploring the great outdoors on a mountain bike. Visit www.okanaganrawsome.com.

*Reprint from our Winter 2017 Issue

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