Partly because I hadn't heard from my farmers for my next Farmer Friday post, partly because the Feeding the 5,000 inspired me, partly because I wanted to share my thoughts, I decided to give some insight into why I decided to step back from farming and work entirely for YYC Growers this season. So here it is, me, Kye Kocher, General Manager of YYC Growers opening up about why I value local food, treasure the farms I get to work with, and see my work as vital to the future of Calgary and beyond.
For the last 5 years, I have farmed my own farm, Grand Trunk Veggies; sat on the board of YYC Growers, first as secretary then as president; and helped run YYC Growers operations. It was incredibly fulfilling, busy work. But YYC Growers reached a point where the board and the members couldn't continue farming at full capacity and run YYC Growers at its capacity. It needed management on the operations level. It was a challenging decision to quit farming and work full-time for YYC Growers. Farming built the foundation for the earth work I was doing. Farming in a sustainable, regenerative way connected me spiritually and economically to the earth. The incredibly short line drawn from any money I made to the point primary production made "work" authentic, organic even. Furthermore, the connections I had made with chefs, landowners, and neighbours were rich; the thought of not delivering to a restaurant or visiting a garden and hanging with a landowner made me feel empty.
"I want to destroy the idea that farmers are ignorant, poor people"
I never expected YYC Growers to grow as it did. To grow from 6 original farms feeding 65 families to 20 farms feeding around 700 families in 5 short years strikes as phenomenal. That Calgarians have been so receptive to our farms and our vision overwhelms the heart, and I'm not apologetic at how thickly saturated in cheese that line is. YYC Growers is an inspiration to me for that reason. Last season, my partner Laura-Leigh and I took the challenge of taking on YYC Growers to build and secure the business in spite of the fact that it meant pausing our own business and taking our hands out of the soil. We chose this because YYC Growers proves larger than our own little goals. Having the opportunity to build a company that successfully serves 20 farms, paying them fairly and connecting them directly with customers felt more important than just farming for ourselves.
Yesterday I was in attendance at Calgary's 2nd "Feeding the 5,000" event at Olympic Plaza. The event feeds anyone, for free, using food prepared with ingredients that would otherwise have been wasted. If anything sheds light on the deficiency of our global food system, this event does. It's incredible that we can produce the volume of food we do, globally, but inexcusable that we have hungry people. It's horrid that 1/3 of all food produced in North America is wasted at the consumer level. In a time when we are facing not only global poverty but climate change, water shortages, and fossil fuel inflation, all of which are global issues, we need to be questioning, firmly and frequently, our current systems. I see my work with YYC Growers as addressing these contemporary problems. It's vital to me that YYC Growers succeed, because the work we do—empowering farmers, educating customers on local food—directly impacts global issues that I believe we must be proactive on.
Eating is a dinner conversation with the earth, every day. The food you eat goes beyond you, at your table, in your kitchen, at the checkout. I think it is important to consider this. When you purchase local food, you are making a direct impact on people around you. You're investing money locally, and this money pays not only the farmer, but also the farm, and a good farm is a land steward. This means that buying local is paying for food that can rebuild soil, establish ecosystems and importantly, fill local people with nutrient dense, necessary goodness.
YYC Growers is prescient. And how could I not want to help be a part of that? The organization, built by a growing number of farmers, committed to building a better food system is exactly what we need right now. When I was a child, for some reason, I had an insane obsession with the earth and animals. I was a misanthrope, truly. I wanted only to help preserve the natural world. It took me a long time to understand my place in this clabber of existence. Farming and food brought definition and sweetened this place. I may have left farming, for a moment, but we are building a farming movement. And of course, I also just want my farmer friends, all twenty of them, to be successful. I want to destroy the idea that farmers are ignorant, poor people. This is why I am doing it.
I want you to support me on this journey and support the incredible farms of this organization who work so hard. I encourage everyone to subscribe to a Harvest Box, or meet a local farmer and sign up for their CSA program. To join the YYC Growers' program, click on this button and help a farmer!