The best thing about farming in Nelson

The best thing about farming in Nelson

Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 19:24

"Here are some fresh wild strawberries I picked with my host. 
They are so tiny but have a huge burst of strawberry flavour,
almost tasting like candy."

This past summer, I volunteered on an organic farm outside of Nelson, British Columbia in Canada through an international program called Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF). I knew I wanted to farm for a month in the mountains of Canada and explore the province I was actually born in, but had never really seen.

Once I found a host through my WWOOF membership, I volunteered my farming capabilities – which were zero, other than watering my mom’s plants – to an American family living in the Slocan Valley two hours outside of Nelson. This is the hippie hot bed (and pot bed) of British Columbia. My goal was to work with animals and embrace natural life.

One of the joys of living in the Kootenay region of B.C. was visiting the city of Nelson, population: 10,230. Six dollars would get you on a public bus that passed by the farm twice a week. Every Thursday I would go to Nelson, the closest thing there was to a city. Coming from a background in magazines and all things fashionable and urban, I knew Nelson was going to be different. But there I ended up embracing a hippie lifestyle that seemed straight out of Berkeley or something, a culture I had initially felt judgmental towards.

Every week I shopped at a co-op filled with organic produce, drank some of the best coffee of my life at the ever-active fair trade café Oso Negro, and hung out on a beach where nudity was normal in front of the Selkirk Mountains. Every week I dressed up as if I were “going to town” when I was in fact surrounded by people in Patagonia gear, hemp and hand-me-downs. Every week I found some vegan café where I could use WIFI because the farm didn’t have any; my host family actually turned off their modem daily.

Back on the farm, I wanted to be occupied by meaningful tasks. But that didn’t always happen.  I had many moments of boredom, unsure why I decided milking goats and picking berries in the blistering sun was a good idea. In the end, I was sad to leave. I had made a connection with a family, their dog and their seven goats. The meals were excellent. Everything was freshly picked. I was working on a lot of “inner stuff” revolving around mental health, and having the best food to accompany me on this tough journey of awareness was the perfect kick-start to a new healthy routine. The Kootenay’s will forever be tattooed on my heart as the place that opened it.

That summer living outside of my comfort zone, which is a massive suburban city outside of Toronto, taught me a few things about myself. It taught me to slow down and appreciate where food really comes from, and to look beyond people at face value. It taught me to understand more than judge.

There were times when farming wasn’t for me. I fantasized about running away. But I stuck with it. When I look back on that romantic time, I realize that farming eventually became part of who I am. And that was the best thing about living in Nelson, a barely-there-city, more of a town, filled with yogis-in-training and other WWOOFers like me. Nelson taught me to look past those markers of subculture, and like the city’s official motto says, to “Forge Ahead” with my own healing.

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