Growing food is an act of love. That’s what we notice when we hear Caroline Fric describe her work. Caroline is the co-owner of Golden Greens Farm, a two-acre land in the Cowichan Valley.
Growing food has taught me absolutely everything, all of my weaknesses and my strengths. It has taught me that despite my very best efforts, planning and all the hard work, Mother Nature always has her way.
Caroline is a member of the Cowichan Valley Co-operative Marketplace. They connect local farmers and consumers in the Cowichan region through a centralized food hub, cow-op.ca. The Marketplace farmers saw a peak in their orders when Covid-19 restrictions affected farmer’s markets and restaurants, so Community Evolution invested $18,000 to allow them to scale their operations. We’re also running a fundraiser to garner support.
“It has also made me recognize that as much as the farm is a small business, it is more than anything a community asset.”
Caroline has always been an avid gardener, and became passionate about environmental science as a teenager. She says that small scale, organic farming should be widely practiced. “It’s a real opportunity to make the world a better place, and I decided to do my part.”
When markets were closed or significantly reduced, farmers were still producing. There were still fresh spring greens to harvest, but many farmers were uncertain how to get them to the community. Meanwhile, the community was responding to calls to stay home and was seeking out online food delivery programs to support their efforts.
The Cow-Op’s superhero of a market manager, Derrick, saw the importance of Cow-op’s role in bridging this gap – enabling people to truly self-isolate while supporting us farmers without our usual markets to turn to. He reached out to Community Evolution for help. Community Evolution provided critical funding to support the hardworking Cow-Op crew to step up and fill this need.
This funding helped Cow-Op hire a team and massively expand order fulfillment. This bigger, better Cow-Op supports both farmers and community members in this new situation and has become an integral part of our weekly harvest schedule. The support of Community Evolution allowed the Cow-Op to expand and grow in a time when many were worried about farmers markets closing and sales dropping significantly.
“The support of the Cow-Op connecting us producers to the community is an important element in our farm plan,” says Caroline, who believes this pandemic was helpful to see more people recognize how precarious much of our food supply is, and how valuable local producers really are.
The right thing
The inspiration to become a farmer came after years in academia and working in a related field. “I realized that no matter the science, tangible change for the better was not coming,” says Caroline. To make real change, she decided to start small and in her own immediate surroundings, then lead by example. “I came to the conclusion that farming was the right thing to do. Not just for me, but for everyone.”
At Golden Greens, founded in 2018, they pride themselves on working toward more sustainable methods, and continually learning and implementing new techniques to improve their crops, land and farm. The work is clearly a passion. “I was in a particularly unsatisfying role where my smarts and abilities were not being used, and I had just had enough,” Caroline says. “I decided I was wasting my time and talents, so I quit my job, sold my house and most of the stuff in it, and took on an internship at a nearby organic farm.”
Over the course of years as an undergrad and environmentalist and learning the true cost of the global food supply, Caroline learned that growing food should be celebrated. “The dependence on chemicals, exploitative labour, and incredible transportation and refrigeration requirements to provide an ultimately sub-par product… it disgusted me,” she says, highlighting that farmers in her community are different. “They produce so much right here without these massive burdens on our planet and people.”
Act of love
According to Caroline, it wasn’t until she gained hands-on experience that she realized the dedication, knowledge, experience, endurance and physical and mental strength needed for the job. “I don’t think an outsider sees even half of what it takes,” she says, mentioning courage, and tolerance for risk, loss and heartbreak. “Farming is an act of love and of faith, and should absolutely be celebrated in the community.”
The pandemic has been an additional source of stress and anxiety to many farmers, including Caroline. They’ve lost some markets, and those that remain will be significantly modified, she says. “It will be a difficult year, with much more time and energy required to get our produce to consumers,” says Caroline. But the teamwork at Cow-Op brings her joy. “We are truly grateful to be members and to be a part of its massive growth as we all adapt to these new circumstances.”
Is she overall satisfied with her job as a farmer? “The bins full of delicious foodie joy that come in on harvest days and find their ways to peoples’ tables is beyond the definition of ‘job satisfaction,” says Caroline.
To support farmers like her, who are showing up for their community, donate to our fundraiser at https://fundrazr.com/cow-op-2020