Holly is a micro farmer with a small plan nursery and a CSA/market garden. She focuses mostly on heirloom food crops and collects her own seeds. Everything is done by hand and grown in a biodynamic fashion. She is originally from Prince Rupert, British Columbia and spent her formative years living around there while exploring the Great Bear Rainforest. She now lives in West Ottawa in the village of Galetta.
She was inspired by Telsing Andrews, another Deep Roots Food Hub farmer, who was instrumental in her transition from hobby gardener to working professional. She attributes her business and academic background growth to Telsing and they work together on several projects.
- What made you want to be a part of the Deep Roots Food Hub?
I was asked to join Deep Roots Food Hub in the early days of the grant proposal process for the Communal Root Cellar. I’ve since stayed on with the group to help with the educational components. I want to help empower people to grow as much food as possible through whatever means they have available.
- What does food security mean to you?
Food security is established on many levels from seed collection, food production and processing. When I think of food security I think of having a locally sourced and closed food system that includes locally produced food and locally sourced and genetically adapted seeds. The ability to store and harvest those items for use later is also an important part of that cycle.
- What type of farm do you run?
I’m a micro farmer with a small plant nursery and a CSA/market garden. I focus mostly on heirloom food crops and collect my own seed. Everything is done by hand and grown in a biodynamic fashion. Shareholders of my CSA (Holly’s Harvest) receive weekly baskets of seasonal organic produce and pasture raised eggs from another local farmer.
- What made you want to be a farmer?
I grew up in Prince Rupert, the rainiest city in Canada. There’s no real dirt, it’s rock or moss. Once I moved and had regular sun and dirt beneath my feet I wanted to grow as much as I could. My first few attempts were pitiful. Poor harvests, stressed plants, overbearing weeds, etc. It wasn’t until I started peeking at the gardens of my elderly neighbors that I saw the differences; their gardens were overflowing while mine were barely surviving. I realized that they were using locally adapted heirloom seeds that were specific to the conditions. Mine were generic seeds from big box stores that were likely grown in a different country, no wonder they were stressed. That’s a big reason why I try to collect as much of my own seed as possible. Seed farming and plant selection is vital part of the food growing process. On a side note, I wish I knew as much about gardening when I still lived in Prince Rupert. The amount of food that can be produced in that climate is incredible.
- Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
There are several amazing farmers and gardeners who have inspired me along the way however Telsing Andrews, a fellow Deep Roots member, was instrumental in my transition from hobby gardener to working professional. My business and academic background has grown each year and we now work together and collaborate on several projects. Having a local resource and mentor was incredibly beneficial and I hope to continue that trend with others.
- What have you found the hardest thing about farming? The constantly changing and never ending list of chores, maintenance and weekly rotations. There’s no break. The only thing that keeps me going is that it I do find it satisfying. I love the outdoors, I love being able to grow my own food and provide for other families. I have great pride in knowing where my plants have been for every step of the process.
- What accomplishment are you most proud of in farming?
I’m proud that I’m still growing food, this is not an easy industry and there’s typically very little pay for the hours you put in. I’m proud to still be doing it and able to expand each year. I take my lessons in stride and learn to do better.
- What goals are you working towards in terms of your professional career?
I’m currently working towards building a passive solar greenhouse for my business in the coming years. My personal goal is to feed my family for one full year with only the seeds and food grown in our backyard; we’re getting closer every year.
- If you had the power to solve one food related problem in the world, what would it be and why?
That is such a hard question; I would focus on increasing soil fertility. I would like to help educate or participate in studies that identify ways of increasing soil health and moisture retention in hostile climates. I’ve become more focused on drought tolerant varieties and would like to see a greater focus on irrigation free methods of food farming.