Brews and kazoos

23 07 2013

I figure I’m due for another update. I’m enjoying the sunny south Oakanagan and maybe even acclimatizing to the desert, nearly 40 degrees as of late. Still living the dream in the Vanagon, and enjoying the simplicity that it offers. I’m realizing that the simple life is more of a journey than a destination though.

I spent the months of May and June working at Covert Farms, likely the largest organic farm in the south Oakanagan. I enjoyed working outside and learning to grow food, however in this time, I realized that this scale of operation wasn’t for me. After much contemplation, I decided to move on from the farm. My dream of being a farmer is still alive and I believe the world could certainly use more farmers. That said, I’ve tentatively concluded that I would rather farm part-time, and perhaps only have a large backyard garden where I could grow food for family and friends. I’d rather share my harvest than sell it, if I can help it. Food is sacred, and something seems to be lost when you put a price on such a sacred thing. Yet it must be done.

Driving the Green Bean, our sweet work truck at Covert Farms

Driving the Green Bean, our sweet work truck at Covert Farms

But life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, right? Shortly after I decided to leave the farm, I was offered a part-time job at the Firehall Brewery, a small craft brewery in Oliver, where I had started volunteering just a couple of weeks earlier. I’ve been there over a month now and it’s been a steep but fun learning curve – beer science, some beer history, washing and filling kegs and growlers, giving tastings/selling, and of course, lots of quality control. Further, with the brewery only being a mere year and a half, it’s also a great opportunity to learn about starting a small business.

Our Holy Smoke Stout starting to lauter during last week’s brew. This award-winning stout gets its smokey flavour from the smoked barely malt. Traditionally, all beers had this smokey flavour because all the barley was dried on open fires.

I’m also working part-time at a beach resort in Osoyoos as a server/bartender in the restaurant and at the beach bar. Once again, not where I was expecting to find myself this summer, but I’m learning lots (the dos and don’ts of serving at a fairly fancy place) and saving some coin for travels.

When I’m not working either at the resort or the brewery, I can be found reading about bees on a platform in a tree above the river, playing the kazoo or harmonica (or at least trying to), hiking in the mountains, lounging by the lake with friends, and a rockin’ and a rollin’ down the road.


My new home

7 05 2013

Much has changed since I returned from Amsterdam, most importantly, I am now the proud holder of a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. Back at Quest, I learned about some contemporary revolutions, learned some Spanish, and completed my Keystone project (comparable to an undergraduate thesis) on collaboration among small-scale farmers in rural Ontario. Last week, I said a bittersweet goodbye to the community that I have come to know and love over the past four years. Now, the big question, “What next?”

Right now, I am sitting in the sunshine, enjoying a warm breeze and the beautiful view of Covert Farms, just north of Oliver in the southern Oakanagan Valley. If all goes as planned, I’ll be working here for the next six months, hopefully learning to grow food. I’ll be living in my cozy ’89 Westy  and trying my best to survive the heat.

Westfalia at Covert

Not sure what exactly life has in store for me this summer or come November, but for now, I’m pretty content to enjoy the ride.

Pieces of thesis

16 08 2012

Looking back on the past few months, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a rather epic summer – interning at a farm, motorcycling across the country, working (but more like playing) at summer camp, sweating it out in the bakery, volunteering at Hillside and exploring on the beautiful Bruce. But all good things must come to an end…in order to make room for more good things! In a short two days time, I’ll be flying across the pond to Amsterdam, where I will be studying for four months! I’m a bit nervous, but I know that unsettled feeling is necessary for new and exciting experiences!

Despite the flurry of fun summer activities and Amsterdam preparations, my academic pursuits continue to float around in my head. I finished another seminal reading, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher and have now started reading Ecotopia. In addition, I’ve began pulling together pieces of what will become my thesis, or “Keystone” as we call it at Quest. My experiential learning block at Foxglove Farm really catalyzed the brainstorming process for my Keystone project, as I had hoped it would. Prior to the experience, I had considered doing a research project on collaboration and social capital at farmers’ markets. However, for logistical reasons, I am now thinking about conducting research on the farming community on the Bruce Peninsula, and attempt to measure both the collaboration and social capital that exists within this population. Some questions I might explore are:

  • How collaborative are local farmers?
  • In what ways are they collaborating – sharing equipment, labour, knowledge?
  • How do I measure collaboration?
  • Does geographic distribution affect the level of collaboration that takes place? Are farmers less likely to collaborate when their farms are more spread out?
  • What role does social capital play in facilitating these collaborations?
  • How do I measure social capital?
  • Does social capital reduce the cost of collaboration?
  • What types of institutions promote collaboration and build social capital?
  • How can farming become more accessible to new farmers?

This is my starting point. We’ll see how things develop over the next few months. I’d welcome any feedback, suggestion, ideas or resources, so send ’em my way!