The third piece in our series on the BC Farmers Market Trail and the farmers you might meet on a Farmers Market visit, is an interview with Matthew Carr of Linden Lane Farms. Matthew has bucked the trend of smaller family farms going slowly out of business. Instead of letting the land his folks had farmed slowly fall into disuse, he has, with the help of his family, gradually bought Linden Lane Farms back to life.
How has Linden Lane Farms evolved and grown since you first became interested in horticulture in around 2010? Do you have plans to expand?
In 2010, during high school, I became inspired by how plants could propagate by differentiating their cells from shoots to become roots for example. This fascination eventually lead to a backyard ornamental nursery during my summer between grades 10 and 11. The next year the nursery was moved to my grandparent’s farm property where we began growing in the family’s 100 by 100-foot garden.
This garden, however, was not only about growing nursery stock but allowed me to experiment with vegetable and small fruit production.
Enjoying what I was doing, I started to consider a career in the horticulture industry and began reaching out for more knowledge, leading to taking online classes through the Prairie Horticulture Certificate.
In 2012, after graduating high school, I made the jump to working full time on the farm, expanding to one acre and focusing on organic vegetable production. Over the next few years, I continued to grow the farm business while completing two PHCs (Field Vegetable Production and Greenhouse Management) and playing junior hockey during the winters.
In 2015, I was accepted into the University of Saskatchewan to pursue a post-secondary education in horticulture. The growth of the farm slowed but still grew, during the four years away in Saskatchewan.
This spring I finally graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a Horticulture Science major and Soil Science Minor and can officially call myself full-time farmer.
This 2019 season we are producing certified organic vegetables and small fruits on 4.5 acres. We also offer vegetable transplants and edible nursery plants in the spring.
We are always expanding to meet our customer’s demands.
This season, we are focused on building a new post-harvest building to expand our cold storage as well as improve efficiency and work towards becoming Canada GAP certified. We are also planting an experimental fruit orchard this season to test kiwis, elderberries, sour cherries, seedless grapes, and haskaps.
More of a long term goal would see Linden Lane expand to 10 acres to allow us to more time for cover crop management between vegetable production rotations and expand our greenhouse and small fruit production areas.
In what ways do Linden Lane Farms & farmers markets contribute to the local and the wider communities?
We provide high-quality, nutrient-dense and sustainably produced sustenance for the members of our community. On top of providing community members with a physical product we also play a roll in educating the public in food production, pre and post-harvest. Farmer’s markets are a great place to socialize weekly as well. We alone have cultivated some amazing friendships with other vendors and our customers over the past 5 seasons.
What can visitors to the Nelson Farmers Markets expect?
The Nelson Farmer’s Markets are full of locally grown and mostly organic produce from many small scale producers. On top of amazing fruits and vegetables, there are also beautiful flower farms, meat producers, distillers and brewers, preserved foods, artists and local apparel. Nelson has a diverse and amazing array of food vendors who often use products from other farmers and vendors of the market.
The Nelson Downtown Local Market is special in that the products sold must be grown, made or produced in the region. At the peak season, NDLM fills Baker Street with locals and tourists making for an amazing experience. Cottonwood Market is unique with its well-maintained gardens, park, and waterfall as well as live music during market hours.
Unfortunately, Cottonwood Market grounds have been under construction by the City of Nelson for the past four seasons that we have attended which has continued to lower attendance and vendor retention. Cottonwood has some great potential in the new market pavilion and we look forward to the transition to the new space.
What tips would you share to ensure new farmers market visitors have the best possible experience?
- If you are looking for the highest quality produce, you need to be at the market early in the morning as many of the farm vendors sell out of certain items fast.
- Bring a reusable bag; we still offer bags for those who have forgotten, but it is a good habit to learn when coming to the markets.
- While some vendors, like our farm, can offer debit and credit payments, bringing cash is another good habit to get into.
- Try to avoid bartering as vendors work very hard for every dollar and often pay themselves much less than minimum wage because they love what they do.
- Every vendor I have met are passionate about what they do and would be happy to answer your questions, so ask away!
Do you have a favourite farm produce recipe?
Quick Kohlrabi-Cabbage Coleslaw
- Shredded Kohlrabi, Cabbage and an apple
- Equal parts mayo and sour cream
- Celery Salt, garlic powder, onion powder, ground pepper, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to taste
Mix the dressing then add to shredded kohlrabi, cabbage, and apple. Best served the next day!
Is there anything, in particular, you would like to share with our readers?
We need more young farmers! By supporting local, small scale producers and involving your children with you at the weekly markets is a great way to spark their interest in food production.
Also, our farm wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my dedicated family and employees who have contributed their time and efforts into creating this successful business. We too would not be successful without our amazing customers that come out rain or shine with a smile on their faces! I am very grateful for this opportunity to grow amazing food for our community.