Stories in Your Stew is a photo-blog project initiated by the Youth Leaders of the 2016 Get Rooted Youth Leadership Program. As we meet Richmond’s farmers and community gardeners, we put faces to the amazing folks behind Richmond’s abundant harvest, support our local food system, and bridge the gap between farm to fork.
“I told myself I’m not going to let it fail in the very first year, no matter what. Even if no one joins the team, I would do everything myself. Luckily, I didn’t have to.”
Jason Kenyon is an employee at McKesson Corporation and a community gardener at Richmond Food Security Society’s King George community garden site. He has been gardening at King George for over two and a half years and has recently started up a community garden with his colleagues amidst the busy McKesson parking lot. Jason and his team grow a wide range of produce: beans, garlic, zucchini, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and potatoes – all of which goes directly to the Richmond Food Bank. When we met him, he donated 40 pounds of produce just that morning! In his spare time, he likes to play online co-op video games and take care of the peas growing on his balcony.
“Once the tomatoes were filling out and they were getting heavy and were leaning down, the rats, the rats would catch them right? And the funniest thing that we noticed was that they would catch a tomato that was not yet ripe, pull it down, take a bite out of it, leave it there, keep going until they find a right one. And then they would take that and run into the middle where the beans are growing and eat it where it’s quiet. Where the beans are, it’s kind of funny.”
Nusheen Dhamani is a community gardener at Richmond Food Security Society’s King George community garden site and is a part of the McKesson team that recently started up a small garden adjacent to the company’s parking lot. Through three years of trial and error, Nusheen gained a lot more experience in gardening and farming compared to when he was helping his mother plant bulbs and flowers in the garden as a child. Nusheen shared many stories with us about the local animals that are after the vegetables he is growing.
“I love the peaceful feeling gardening brings me and I enjoy harvesting. It’s like fostering a child sometimes, only that you eat him.”
Lily Wang is a member of the Gardening Club at Richmond Secondary School and helps out with the community garden on campus. She initially became interested in gardening back in the eighth grade, when she and the rest of her class were told to help out in the gardens as a change of pace from the regular classroom setting. Her gardening routine consists of watering, weeding, and hunting for the hose nozzle that is constantly being placed in new locations. Although it is sometimes a challenge for Lily to find time to volunteer at the garden regularly, she dedicates time to water the plants even during her summer break.
Part 1/2. “It was two brothers that came over, when would they have come…say in the early 1900s, like 1903…they had a family in England. And they were four boys and there wasn’t enough land to support all of them. So the boys, they drew straws and the two that lost had to come to Canada. And they were given money to buy land, it might have been a thousand dollars, which was a lot of money back then…these were best friends that came out at the same time…the Mays and the Savage family were very friendly in England, so they came [to Canada] and did the same thing. And so on this side of the street are the May’s and on that side going all the way down are the Savage’s.”
Kelly May is the owner and operator of The Fowl Farmer – a family farm in Richmond, dating back over a century. Currently, three generations of Mays work on the farm, which primarily produces poultry and cranberries. In 2012, the family also opened their own store. This store is the go-to place for BC food products and artisan goods; here you can find homemade pies and meatballs, locally-crafted jams, olive oil, sauces and much more. They even have an assortment of produce, from squash to lettuce, cucumbers to peppers, which the Mays grow in their own greenhouse. The Fowl Farmer has definitely embraced the local food movement! Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or simply seeking a piece of Richmond’s history, this farm is certainly worth a visit!
Part 2/2. “It’s been a real struggle because of where we are. You know we’re not just walking distance [from the main road]. We have to get the people here to see what we have…so many people don’t even know we exist out here. I’ve had arguments [with people who say] that Cambie [Road] doesn’t go past No. 6 road. Well I guess we don’t exist… We all have blinders on. You go from point A to point B and you don’t stop along the way very often.”
When asked what was one of the major milestones in her life, Kelly May claims that it was the opening of her store. When we next visited her, we wanted to buy some greens; Kelly’s daughter especially went to the field and harvested for us the freshest green kale, it made a delicious salad that night. Throughout the years, the May family farm has adopted and experimented with various methods to maintain their century-old trade despite the growing urbanization of the Richmond area and the decrease in popularity of farming over time. Let us support our farmers! Eat local, buy local, and keep our food system sustainable.
“My favorite part of the job is when all the produce is washed and looks beautiful.”
Kristjan Johannson became involved with the Sharing Farm while completing his practicum at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He eventually became a Volunteer Coordinator with the organization and now serves as a Field Manager. The Sharing Farm began in 2005 with the goal of assisting low-income individuals to access fresh and nutritious food; the Farm now produces between 18,000 – 20,000 pounds of fresh produce annually for the Richmond Food Bank.
“This job here, as the Volunteer Coordinator, sees a big part of the job as connecting with the volunteers, and not just having a leader but someone to share their life with, their joys and struggles.”
Jennifer Cline is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Sharing Farm, a non-profit organization that uses sustainable means to grow a variety of produce to feed families throughout the Richmond community. Jennifer comes from a long line of gardeners and farmers; she got into farming because of her interest in the food system. Fighting the year-long battle against unwanted weeds while managing the constant harvesting and seeding, Jennifer finds relief in being out in nature and enjoying the fresh air. When she is not farming at the Sharing Farm, she is probably farming on her own half acre of land, which she has leased.
“I always helped [my dad] with [the garden] and I always thought that I liked being his company, that I was there. Then I realize, as I’ve gotten older, that I also enjoy it, but maybe that was both because he died when I was 17, so I feel close to him.”
Yvonne Hockley is a volunteer at the Sharing Farm. She has been volunteering with the Sharing Farm for around a year, rain or shine. She enjoys working outside in nature, with the diverse group of people who are all aiming to help the community access healthy, local food. Having her own herb garden at home, she has become one of the many go-to herb specialists at the Sharing Farm. In addition to herbs, she also enjoys growing tomatoes in her backyard, since they are some of the few things the squirrels in her neighborhood do not like eating.