Omnivore Acres: Eat All, Eat Well, Eat Local
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing tastes as good as food grown locally, carefully and with genuine passion and interest. Is it me or can you taste a happy vegetable? The more I write for this blog, and the more people I get to chat with, the more I realise just how easy it is to adapt to a sustainable and local eating habit. Here I interview Catherine Gowans from Omnivore Acres, a farm in Central Saanich (Victoria, BC) intent on providing healthy, happy and well raised chickens (for eggs and meat), pigs and veggies to its local community.
Farm life. Tell us about it.
Jim and I bought the farm in August 2008 after a tour of New Zealand. We made a commitment to buy a farm and grow food, raising meat for local market and exploring the local food community. We had enjoyed full careers and were ready to begin our “bucket list” of projects. Jim’s a livestock nutritionist by profession and I’m a Registered Nurse.
We named our farm “Omnivore Acres” having been inspired by Michale Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Our vision is “Growing Food and Creating Hospitality through Sustainable Agricultural Practices”
Shortly after moving into the farm house we realized that the major renovation we planned needed to be a rebuild. We planted our first garden in 2009 and began remediating the soil from dormant hay land. One of our first purchases was a manure spreader!
In 2010 we got our first flock of layers and began selling eggs from our farm gate. Our customers tell us our Omega 3, free range, veggie fed eggs are exceptional and it’s Jim’s knowledge and experience in the feed industry that has guided the diets we provide to all our animals.
In 2010 we began exploring ways to market our vegetables and started a small box program. Our program today has grown to 20 customers and runs for 18 weeks.
This year we have also raised 350 chickens on pasture for meat birds. These birds are veggie fed, range on grass and produce beautiful meat. In 2011 we added pigs to our brood.
The pigs! Yes! How is that going?
These pigs are enjoying life, free ranging on pasture, eating a vegetable diet and providing manure for the land. Right now, our pigs are all pre-sold. The pigs arrive in June 2011 as weaners from a nursery barn in Alberta. The pigs grow here with us until mid/end of September and are custom ordered and finished on a vegetable diet.
So what else do you have growing on your farm?
3/4 acre of vegetables, 350 meat birds, 399 laying hens, two Border Collies and sixteen pigs! I handcraft custom pies for customers as well. Frozen and fresh.
And all these lovely nutritious homegrown goodies, how do we get our hands on them!
And what about Thelma and Louise? Are you harbouring fugitives?!
Yes, they’re aptly named. When not given enough to do, they tend to look for mischief. Both dogs have their talents and jobs to do like good farm workers!
What been your favourite experience so far of life on the farm?
It’s hard to identify any one experience or event. Jim and I celebrated our wedding in 2010 on the farm with a pig roast and 130 friends and family. That stands out for sure.
The best part of living here is the lifestyle and the connection with the soil and all things growing. It is especially wonderful to share our bounty with likeminded folks who enjoy and respect seasonal eating, cooking and going a bit out of their way to establish a relationship with a farm.
Local support and the folks we have met through our venture to date has been very gratifying.
We are living a lifelong dream we both shared before meeting in 2005. I would say “never let go of your dreams.”
Lest it sound all romantic, farming is hard work, labour intensive and a business that has to make it on its own. We had a barn flood on Christmas Day, we have had pigs break out and need to be wrestled back and had neighbour cows visit our back yard. You have to laugh somedays.
But we have so much encouragement from our customers and have found notes and dog biscuits left in our egg box out front and veggie left overs delivered from a neighbor for our laying hens. We’ve had everything from firewood to trailers loaned to us to help keep our costs down as we develop our business.
What’s next for the farm?
Nothing at the moment, but stay tuned to our Facebook page.
If you were to prepare a dinner solely from the fruits of your labour, what would be on the table?
We enjoy this type of meal every night in the summer and frequently throughout the year. This past weekend as an example, we enjoyed a lovely roast chicken from our field, patty pan summer squash, red potatoes, green beans, roasted beets and greens and a blackberry pie!
And because we love used, what`s been your best used find?
Well, we sell more on UsedVictoria than we buy but of items I’ve purchased I would say dog kennels which we use to transport baby pigs have been our best purchase!
Omnivore Acres is located at 2888 Dooley Road, Victoria,