Introducing Helena Gagnier: the summer student we could not live without!

By | June 29, 2018

I have fallen in love with the world of vegetables. I see a head of butter lettuce, and am astounded at how beautiful it is. I eat a cherry tomato, and I could just about cry at its burst of wonderful flavor. I watch how much these people care about what they do, and I am in awe.

I’m Helena Gagnier, a philosophy major with an environmental studies minor at Queen’s University. The previous sentence is about the same as the intro to the cover letter I sent to YYC Growers. Miraculously, I got the job. I’m the summer student helping out at the warehouse this year, and I am so grateful to be working here.

When I was job hunting at the beginning of this summer, I learned that, unsurprisingly, there are exactly zero listings on any job board reading “Philosopher Wanted.” Still, I had hoped I would find something even slightly relevant to my studies. Thinking that working with farmers was at least relevant to environmental studies, I applied to YYC Growers and stumbled my way through an interview with Kye and Laura-Leigh, the captains of this ship. For whatever reason, I got the job, and have learned that there is more depth to the vegetable world than I had anticipated.

YYC Growers is an organization that reflects my stance in environmental ethics—that we should, and must, grow in a sustainable and regenerative manner. I believe that we have a moral obligation to treat the earth as more than just a means to an end, and to recognize that its value goes beyond its usefulness to humans.

Reconstructing our food systems into sustainable structures is one of the biggest way we can reduce our environmental impact, and one of the most direct ways we can help save the earth. YYC Growers is truly in the business of saving the world; Kye and Laura-Leigh could include “superhero” in their email sign off. Even their names meet the superhero standard of alliteration: Introducing the Agriculture Avengers, Kye Kocher and Laura-Leigh! Of course, they couldn’t do it without the help of Warehouse Manager extraordinaire, Danilo! Peter Parker and Clark Kent have nothing on these folks. I feel like an anthropologist sent to study Krypton. And it is unexpectedly wonderful and beautiful and weird.

More than the obvious connection between environmental ethics and farming, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this organization is an amazing snapshot of what it means to be human. All species eat. It is not that we eat that sets us apart, but rather how we eat. Where else in nature does a species work so hard to feed each other? Certainly, mothers will feed their young and packs will hunt together, but what we are doing here goes beyond that. Firstly, we are manipulating nature in such a way that lets us thrive and lift each other up. We are using space that would have otherwise yielded nothing, and we have turned it into valuable and life-giving land. Secondly, we are working together city wide to keep each other healthy, while also keeping the earth healthy. It is not as though we are one huge pack and this organization fulfills a survivalist instinct. We don’t directly benefit on a survivalist level if someone across the city enjoys a really great tomato. And yet, we do care. We care about keeping people we’ve never met healthy, and we care about advocating and caring for the earth.

There’s something almost religious about it, the way we share food and genuinely want to help each other. I’m not a particularly religious person, so please excuse me if my analogy fails, but it feels to me as though we are breaking bread city wide. We are sharing joy with, and providing life’s building blocks to, people we have never before met. Glory, glory, glory to green! Praise Mother Nature!



But I digress. This wasn’t meant to be a vaguely philosophical superhero infused rambling, but rather an introduction. So: I’m Helena, I like hiking and reading, and I play volleyball. I have a tendency to find deeper meaning in almost any situation, summer jobs at vegetable warehouses included. I have no plans for the future but I do own a deck of tarot cards, which is pretty much the same thing. I’m thrilled to be working for YYC Growers this season for reasons which I’m sure have already been made apparent. I like long walks on the beach, curling up next to the fire with a good book, and using cheesy dating profile lines out of context.

If you’re like me and want to support YYC Growers in their world saving endeavors, consider signing up for a Summer Harvest Box! You can click on this button to get started: SAVE THE WORLD


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