Against the Wind.
Sat on the deck at Against the Wind Nursery and Gardens , the beauty of the view is matched only by the stunning gardens that surround the nursery. Below the nursery, the ornamental gardens wind their way around and down the slope; demonstrating the amazing plants that all the seedlings for sale will one day grow into. Below the gardens sits the ‘farm’ side of the operation; the blueberry plants running in long lines across the property and the garlic swaying in the distance.
Part of the reason to come to Against the Wind is the experience of being in such a beautiful place. Helen Sebelius and Corky Evans started to build the nursery and farm gardens in 2008, devoting their time and energy to building a place to visit and enjoy. “When we first put up a website for the nursery, we talked for a long time about how to describe what this place is,” Helen recalled. “One statement that I have to remind myself of is ‘to create a place that we wanted to find’. When we go on road trips, we’re seeking out places that we’ll fall in love with – destination is a word that we use. As Corky says, if people come and see it once, they come back. And whether they buy plants isn’t really the issue, because they get enjoyment out of it. People are welcome to just come and wander through the gardens and chat with us if we have time.”
Their farm focuses on five major food crops; blueberries, potatoes, squash, garlic and turkeys. “The 5 things we grow are things that you can grow without poisons,” Corky explained. By focusing on a limited number of crops, they’ve found a niche in the market and sell a bulk of their produce to a few customers rather than attending weekly markets. “In terms of economy, we’re trying to figure out what is the best return, how much labour we put into it, and how much we enjoy it,” Helen pointed out before admitting; “The enjoyment factor is a big part of it.”
When asked about the ethics behind their growing, Corky told us; “It starts with leave the earth better than you found it, and almost everything comes from that. If you care for land, you don’t know how to stop making it better.” His passion extends from the land to the food they grow; both for sale and for their own consumption. “We both really like sitting down at the table and looking at the food,” he remarked. “It’s surprising. We’ve been at this for a while, but it’s still surprising.”
Helen agreed; “As we go through the season, we get to 100% food on the table that we grew. To get that kind of production and storage capability is a marvellous thing. I go to the store and there’s nothing I want to buy. I think it is that sense of satisfaction in eating food that has good flavour and knowing that it came from the earth that we trod here.”
They’re also passionate about the local food movement. “I really like ‘eat local’”, Corky admitted. “In my parent’s generation, everybody thought a dollar had to travel through the community to be of any value. Eat local to me, is the present generation catching on to what people tried to figure out in 1930s. Even if there was no drought in California, or climate change, I’d want you to buy my potatoes because it’s good for Winlaw.”
Helen feels it’s also important to consider the enjoyment behind your food experience. “I think it’s all about value and our personal value. The value of what it costs you to drive to town to get something versus going down the road. We head to those places where we think we’re getting a deal, but there’s a whole life experience that goes missing somewhere along the line. So I think getting to know your farmer is huge. Wouldn’t it be nice if the valley could have a market of its own, filled with vendors that were selling food and other stuff from the valley, that was valuable enough for people to make the trip out here. Another destination!”
So what’s their message to eaters? “Care for the food. And take care in the way you prepare it. Have a relationship with your food,” Helen replied. And after a long pause, Corky responded with, “Sometimes I just want to say thanks. Because we’d be toast if they didn’t care.”