Three years ago, Spruce Spring Stream Farm first brought their produce to Fernie’s Mountain Market. It was in the same year that the farm changed hands. The farm offers seasonal produce and according to one of the owners, Jeremy Grassick, most of their produce can be found at their Mountain Market booth.
“[We offer] mixed vegetables, a lot of herbs, all sorts of berries, fruit, medicinal herbs and teas. For the markets we mostly supply greens, garlic – we have over 25,000 garlic [bulbs] this year,” he said adding they also have egg-producing chickens, but the eggs are not sold at the market.
Grassick told The Free Press that the land has been farmed since the 1960’s and many of the original gardens are now fully established.
“Our place was developed a bunch of years ago by, basically, a bunch of hippies from California. They came up here and it was a kind of a ‘back to the land’ movement. They were more like university professors – they actually hated being called hippies – but you could imagine back in the 60’s and 70’s in the Elk Valley, everyone called them the hippy commune,” he said. “They broke the land from raw forest and started planting gardens. They also brought people up for the summer and taught them homesteading skills; basically, running it as a camp. We inherited a lot of their hard work. They planted a lot of perennial herb gardens and a lot of that is really established now.”
Grassick is very welcoming of fellow competitors, believing that the increase in local produce vendors at the markets is a sign that the area is becoming more aware and supportive of Elk Valley farms.
“When we started there was maybe three farms and we were really the only farm from the Elk Valley that was there. Now there is a farm from Sparwood as well. There are three girls from Cranbrook; they are neat because they farm backyards and they do a bit of indoor micro-greens and pea shoots. And there is Cutter and Bolter, which is kind of South Country farms and ranches,” he said. “It is cool to see the local food movement growing. There is an interest, there are lots of people gardening now and we get tons of support; we could sell more than we could produce.”
Grassick, along with his partner Rebecca Vaughan, have moved back to the Elk Valley from Vancouver Island where there was a very strong local produce culture. He hopes to see the Elk Valley food movement continue to grow.
“We are both massage therapists and we were living in Victoria before we moved back to the Elk Valley and it is like night and day. Food security and young farmers and community supported agriculture like box programs are really big there and then we move back and it felt a bit tragic for local food here but I think that that’s changing,” he said. “People are interested in healthy living and there is a pretty strong backyard gardening movement here so, from that end of things, it was ready. I think the valley could support a few more farms.
The Mountain Market is a staple for Spruce Spring Stream Farms, while they also sell directly to local restaurants. They will also be participating in this year’s Feast and Fest in September. Grassick has a lot of fun at the markets and finds the majority of the farm’s patrons are repeat customers.
“It’s probably 60 to 70 per cent people we already know, people that we see at the market every weekend. There are always some people passing through town and others we are just meeting,” he said. “My friend Dawn [Deydey] is the person who started the Mountain Market and it is cool to see it’s grown and the variety of vendors and see how much the community has embraced it, it’s really cool.”