In the late weeks of October I had the chance to sit down with my good friend, and operator of Barefoot Organics, Derek Powell. I’ve known Derek since we were a couple punk kids growing up in Gordon Head, and although both of us have come a long way from wandering around the townhouses and hangin in front of Mr. Dee’s, we have managed to remain good pals. I first found out about Derek’s involvement in farming while I was living in Calgary and have been excited to work with him ever since. As a chef, having people you know, and trust, growing organic produce for you is the dream.
As part of the Haliburton Farm, Barefoot Organics has been up and running for 4 years. With growing market support and a community that seems to truly want local, sustainable, and above all else healthy food, Derek sees a bright future for the Victoria farm to table scene. “My focus is on growing, growing, growing. Both on the farm and the support from the local food fans. Getting food from my farm to the people who want it, who need it, that’s one of my goals.” There has been a huge response from both Oaklands Night Market, whose growth after the first year was from proverbial tumble weeds to a vibrant community gathering, and the Moss Street Market. The markets, coupled with a weekly food box program, are helping Derek's objective of getting food from A to B pick up steam. “Closing the loop is one of the keys to our food security here on the island,” and Derek has been finding ways to do that through seed saving, education, and even contributing plants to local schools for fundraising plant sales.
Like any entrepreneur, Derek has met challenges while running a small business, and shares some struggles with all of us who try and grow our own food. Slugs, bugs, bad crops, and early spring frosts, too much rain, not enough rain - they’re all parts of what make a farmers work so challenging, but equally rewarding. “It’s all about developing a personal relationship with food; being included in the process. Getting excited when it’s apple season, picking herbs from your backyard or balcony. You know, enjoying local, seasonal food.” Derek’s got that right. Nothing tastes better than the food you grow in your own garden and he suggests, “growing something that you like to eat a lot of, because you’ll have a lot. We have a perfect climate for growing on the island so grow something you like!” His favourite crop, his many varieties of garlic. “The garlic is my year marker on the farm, planting it is the start of my season,” and if you’re a garlic lover and missed the fresh season he dries each variety separate and sell them in powder form at the markets.
Into the winter months now, the produce is slowing down, but that doesn't mean it’s over! This week, for my Monday Lunch, I’ll be featuring some roasted squash and chard from Barefoot Organics.
I'm always stocking up on fresh veggies from Derek, but my favourite is the green garlic in the spring. I make a charred green garlic spread that you can put on just about anything. Supporting local business builds our community and invests in our economy. Eat local, think local, because hey, we are local.