Farm Focus: Westham Island farmers open up on Facebook
As the general public becomes better aware of healthy eating, they’ve increasingly looked at food production to determine that what they’re putting on their dinner table is the best possible quality.
Part of ensuring that quality includes knowing where the food comes from, and who produced it.
Which is why Katie Leek of Emma Lea Farms on Westham Island decided to write twelve profiles about the farmers who work on their land, publishing photos and descriptions on their Facebook page.
“I just think it’s important. People are so interested in food production and knowing their farmer,” says Katie, a fifth-generation farmer whose family has been on the island since 1885. “I just wanted people to feel free to know us completely outside of the farm and what we do on the farm.”
Originally a dairy and vegetable farm, Katie’s parents Kevin and Joanne Husband began growing berries in the late 1970s, before purchasing adjacent land in 1986 to build a store and do farm-direct selling and U-Pick.
Being a farm-direct market, Katie says customers might only see Katie or her parents and not all of the farmers who put in the heard work of growing food.
“Although those people aren’t working in the stand they are obviously hugely important to our farm,” she says.
Emma Lea Farms grows a variety of fruits and vegetables which they sell at their store during the farming season, and for BC Fresh on the off-season. The constant work allows them to employ 10 year-round employees.
Katie posted up photos and bios of those employees in the name of farming transparency .
“We want people to ask questions and we’ll give very honest answers. We just want good information to get out there because there’s a lot of misinformed people about certain farming practices.”
Even small pieces of misinformation can have “major ripples” which can lead to changes affecting the entire agricultural community. Recently in Alberta, a restaurant chain decided to stop using local beef over erroneous concerns about humane treatment of animals.
There was another reason Katie wanted to do the profiles. While the stereotypical image of a farmer may conjure up the famous Grant Wood painting American Gothic, the reality is that farmers can be men and women, older and younger, Canadian born or immigrants.
“Farmers come in all different forms and they need to be represented,” says Katie, adding they all work together as a team and that makes the employees of this family-run business loyal and happy with their jobs.
It was also a way of acknowledging the unsung heroes of farming, adds Katie, a way of telling the public who much they value their workers. She says she learned quite a bit more about the lives of everybody on the farm just by sitting down one on one and having a chat.
Even the stories she already knew gave her pause to reflect on how rare it is that her father still lives in the house he grew up in. Farmers are bonded to the land, it gives back what they put into it. Unlike people who move to where the best-paying job is, there are several families on Westham Island like the Husbands who have lived there their entire lives.
You can read all of the profiles at Emma Lea Farms’s Facebook page.