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Butler Urban Farm: End of season reflections

Farming is coming to the end of the season.
food policy photo Nov 2021
Caitlin Quist

As we removed the last of our tomato plants from the field yesterday, there was a satisfying feeling of putting the garden to rest after a busy season. This year we have harvested 5,920 pounds of vegetables so far, which was donated to community organizations and individuals in Kamloops. This included many of our staple vegetables from last year, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and broccoli, as well as several new plants such as fava beans, watermelons, and amaranth. We expanded the amount of land in cultivation on our site this season, and have begun the work of building soil and productive capacity in these areas. We are incredibly grateful for all the volunteers and visitors who came to the farm this season, who made it not only a productive agricultural space, but also a beautiful, vibrant, and welcoming place to be.

While settling into the fall and reflecting on the abundance and joy I experienced this growing season, it must also be remembered that this year was a challenging one for many farmers and gardeners. With record breaking temperatures and a long and persistent wildfire season, the magic of working in the garden with soil and pollinators was lost at times. Many farmers lost a devastating amount of their harvest to the heat, drought, increased pests, and even losing their land to fires. Breathing the smoke from wildfires is extremely detrimental to the health of the people that grow our food, and smoke cover can prevent plants from getting the light they need to survive. As well, these climate events were all felt within a system already strained under COVID-19. We all depend on the food that farmers produce for us, and as such, it goes without saying we need to work together to reduce emissions to ensure extreme climatic conditions don’t get much worse. Additionally, we must work to build a strong local food system resilient to shocks and challenges.

What can we do, as members of a food system, to address the coming challenges to our food security? As a consumer, support your local farmers. Learn about who grows your food, and how, and support these producers to ensure we don’t lose an important local food source. As growers, make the shift towards more resilient ways of growing that conserve water, protect and build soil, support pollinators, eliminate or reduce use of chemical inputs, and limit fuel use if possible. Additionally, participate in seed saving and building local seed security. Having local seed that is adapted to our hot and dry climate will ensure seeds that can survive in these harsh conditions. Protecting and maintaining a biodiverse local seed stock will make us more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

While we all cozy up for the winter, join me in learning and planning for the next growing season.

• Protect and Build Soil: Use cover crops and mulching to add organic matter back to your soil while protecting against erosion and improving water retention. The cover crops we use at Butler Urban Farm include: buckwheat, fall rye, speckled pea, and various legume crops (beans, chickpeas). Additionally, adding nutrients to the soil through manure and compost will help build soil.

• Integrated Pest Management: Using integrated pest management systems can help control pests in your garden without using pesticides. This system uses natural enemies of pests to eliminate them without using chemical additives. Some examples of this include: planting plants such as buckwheat, dill, or cilantro near brassica plants to attract parasitic wasps that eat brassica pests.

• Plant flowers that attract pollinators, especially plants native to this area

• Participate in next year’s Seedy Saturday to exchange seed with others in the city

We want to say a warm thank you to everyone that came to Butler Urban Farm this year, it’s the people that make it such a wonderful place to be. As well, a big thank you to the organizations and volunteers who turn our produce into meals for those in the community.

We are a non-profit farm growing freely accessible food on Kamloops’ North Shore, for more information see Kevin’s article or our Facebook page.