Rachel and Reilly spent the 2016 season apprenticing on an organic farm in Sooke, Vancouver Island. We asked Rachel to write a short essay about her experience on the farm, and she was more than happy to oblige. Thanks, Rachel!
I learned more than can be expressed in words during my season at the farm. There is something so special about learning through growing food, through watching your crops as seasons change. But my time there was much more than just farming. I became part of the community, and the farm quickly felt like home.
Reilly and I came to apprentice on the farm after living in Vancouver. As someone who had lived in cities their whole life, living in a rural area was a huge change for me, especially deep in the woods on Vancouver Island. Sooke is home to many people who share an intrinsic appreciation for food, and I felt welcome by the community there.
The farm is nestled at the top of Otter Point Road and a downhill bike ride away from the ocean. Growing up in Ontario, I was used to pastoral farmland with wide rolling fields of corn or potatoes. In contrast, the farmland on Vancouver Island is hidden between hills and behind walls of cedar and fir.
One of the coolest things on the farm was the cob house where Rei and I got to stay. It’s a tiny home made of earth! Because of the thick mud walls, we stayed toasty warm in the rainy months, as long as we kept our wood stove burning.
Mary-Alice, who runs the farm, has such an interesting life! Her story is inseparable from the farm. Her late husband Jan was an artist and his work is scattered everywhere on the farm. While picking rhubarb you’d often get spooked by the metal figure waving at you. I think the farm especially speaks to creative people who see the world in a different light; this is certainly why the farm spoke to me.
I learned constantly, everyday, starting from letting the chickens out in the morning, until the end of the day when I’d crack open my beer. Mary, of course, holds a wealth of farm knowledge, but I especially liked hearing her stories of travelling in Asia. I learned all about delicious Lebanese cuisine from Anas, another apprentice on the farm, and I still dream of his hummus. From Jordan, the farm manager, I learned how to hunt for mushrooms in the woods, and the art of tying flies for fly fishing. I took much more from the farm than just knowledge about crops, and that is why my experience was so special.
My time on the farm was a blast. I miss it all the time.