Ravine Creek Farm

Five minutes north of Winlaw, on your right hand side you might notice a beautiful market garden, nestled in a bed on the highway. This is Ravine Creek Farm, home of Alys Ford and Eric Struxness. “The name comes from the water that the farm is irrigated by, which is Ravine Creek,” Eric explained. “We decided upon that name because we wanted to honour that water, and recognise that it’s the largest component of our farm and farming practices. We don’t want to buy the Colorado river, and we don’t want to buy the Columbia river, and we don’t want to buy the rivers that exist in Chile, and New Zealand and Israel.”

Long time homesteaders, they made the switch to farming four years ago. “The work itself is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Alys admitted. “I really enjoy being self employed, I really enjoy working outside all day long, I like coming into my office – it’s beautiful! And there’s something very fundamental and simple about growing food for people, and doing that on scale. Knowing that with the effort of just a couple of people, we’re able to produce a significant amount of calories, and that’s really gratifying. That in and of itself feels really fulfilling.”

“And we like this lifestyle,” Eric continued. “As everyone needs to earn a certain amount of income to support themselves, we wanted to structure that income stream in a way that is closer in line with our values. I also enjoy the spiritual development that farming offers us; the ability to manage such a large amount of constant influences that you will never gain total control over. You have to find a place within yourself that is able to let go of all the hard work and your attachments to that work and be ready for it to be destroyed in an instance.”

With around ¾ of an acre of market gardens, they supply 17 local families with vegetables through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme, as well as attending the busy weekly Wednesday market in Nelson. “We’ve had this really tremendous response from people all up and down the valley. Anyone driving down this highway seems to see us,” Alys remarked, smiling. They’ve also started a farm stand on Sundays. “I think ultimately we’d like to grow the on-farm sales aspect of what we’re doing,” Alys explained. “I am really interested in feeding folks closer to home. It seems silly to drive our produce an hour away, when there’s more than enough folks round here that eat to sell it to.”

As well as being certified organic, they also have strong ethical and environmental values behind their farming. “We call ourselves ecological agriculture,” Eric told us. Alys continued; “I think we practice thinking about this farm in terms of the larger ecosystem we inhabit. So our farm and our little corner of the world doesn’t stop at our fence. It goes into the whole neighbourhood and into the greater watershed of the region.”

Alys and Eric are also passionate about eating and enjoying their own food. “We have a tiered system with the farm,” Eric explained. “Family first, CSA second, market third, then wholesale if there’s anything left. It’s to maintain the roots about homesteading and providing for our own calorie needs, to make sure that doesn’t get lost in the business world of market gardening. It doesn’t make sense to grow really good food that we’re connected to, to sell to someone else, so we can buy somebody else’s food.”

What message would they like to share with their eaters? “I think that when it comes to food, we’re in a bit of a dark age when it comes to wisdom and knowledge about food,” Alys began. “There’s a really big disconnect with some people about the price of food and the cost of living for people making and growing that food. If you want local food, if you want farmers to live next door to you, the farmer has to be able to afford to live next door to them. We have lost sight of the fact that our parents generation, our grandparents generation were accustomed to paying a much larger percentage of their income for food. I don’t think the average consumer has an idea about what it means to have cheap bananas from Mexico; that it’s not just that someone got a deal and passed it onto them, but that those costs don’t evaporate into thin air. They are going to be paid by somebody somewhere; quite possibly us, just in a different form. That’s where the climate change piece comes back round and whacks you on the head. We are all going to pay for it eventually.”

Eric joined the discussion with a valuable point. “And that comes back to our larger society’s value of food. They don’t understand it because they don’t value it, because we as a culture haven’t taught people to value it. I happen to believe that this lettuce is worth more than 3 dollars, not because of my labour, but because it’s fuel for your tomorrow.”

They both passionately believe in local food. I think that it’s the future, how things are going to get changed,” Eric concluded. “As more of these little tiny things happen, there’s space for direct relationships; there’s not a chain of middlemen in the way to prevent these relationships that power the whole organism.”

Both Eric and Alys also express “A big thank you  to the folks who have supported us since day one by eating our food – in spite of the shortcomings of our broader society, we really want to recognize the black sheep who have loved what we do since day one!”