By Kevin Damaskie
With a handful of plastic bags he “borrowed” from his employer, Andrew Budgell started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation five years ago – and he didn’t know it.
“I was just growing vegetables and putting together $20 bags every week and delivering them to my friends,” says Budgell who started to farm in search of a quiet job. “I wanted to work with my hands and I wanted to feel good about my work.”
He found it in farming and then his farming partner found him. Kerry McCann was raised an Ontario farm kid, with self-sufficiency her parents’ goal, she learned about farming early and unlike Budgell, she knew what a CSA was.
“It’s kind of funny that I had really wanted to farm all my life,” says Kerry, a trained beekeeper who was in BC looking to develop an apiary. “But I didn’t know how to start. Then I met Andrew who was farming organically on rented land.”
When the budding farmer Andrew, met the lifelong farmer Kerry, Laughing Crow Organics was born. Now in their fourth season of production, the two work to produce mixed vegetables and local, in season, honey. Kerry giggles when she recalls how Andrew was teaching himself how to farm, soil to table. After all, the best way to learn is to just do it.
“Andrew had never been to a farmer’s market until the first day he went there to sell,” she says.
As certified organic producers, Andrew and Kerry are proud of the diversity of roles they share at Laughing Crow. From production to marketing, welding to accounting and bookkeeping, there is never a dull moment, Andrew says.
“Farming is the most complex, difficult thing we have ever done, but now that we are into it, I wouldn’t do anything else,” Andrew says. “You really get to be the jack of a million trades.”
The joy these two derive from the land and its bounty is palpable. A quick tour of their operation shows tidy rows and well thought out tooling organized for efficiency and effect. Although organic farming comes with its own set of specific challenges, Kerry and Andrew are all smiles and hard work. This season they acquired and rebuilt a 1953 Allis Chalmers rear engine tractor to help with the constant weeding required.
“It was great that we were able to start our business on a farm that was already certified organic,” Kerry says of their three-acre operation in constant crop rotation from year to year. “ Even if we were ten times bigger, we would still be organic.”
To Andrew and Kerry, farming organically is more than just cutting out synthetic pesticides and herbicides; it is an integrated system that looks at clean air, water and healthy soil as an ecological investment.
“If we ever have to leave this farm, we want the soil to be healthier than when we started,” Andrew says. “In Pemberton, we are very lucky as we have a very friendly network of farmers who all share ideas despite the fact we are in competition.”
Over time, Kerry and Andrew are keen to watch Pemberton grow into a “small valley known far and wide for quality organic food.”
“There is something happening here and we didn’t know we were part of it, but we are,” Andrew says. “There is a growing network of small farms and we are just happy to be part of it.”
Despite the fact that Kerry and Andrew came to farming from different backgrounds, they are both thrilled with where they are at right now. Solving problems, growing nutritious, local food and sharing the fruits of their labour.
“We are working hard to grow the best food and making sure it is the most nutritious,” Kerry says. “That’s why we like supplying The Green Moustache, as Pierre and Nicky (Green Moustache owners) are feeding people healthy food and we are growing it. That is very satisfying.”
And delicious too.