CSA pioneers say market gardening works for them

Most of the local food grown 
by Theresa and Geoff Dyck is 
consumed in Winnipeg 
but they would love to 
sell to the cottage crowd

Geoff and Theresa Dyck drop tiny pepper plants into pressed earth squares with the ease of people who have done it before — many, many times before.

“We always remind ourselves when we are tired or cranky and there are mosquitos… that we are not punching a clock,” says Theresa. “We are making our own choices and when we walk out the door to go to work, it’s right here. It’s a big lifestyle choice.”

The owners of Boundary Creek Farm took up market gardening a decade ago, and founded the Gimli Farmers’ Market before moving into community-supported agriculture (CSA).

“We had a real interest in farming and where our food comes from, and with our rural backgrounds we had this urge to get out of the city and back to the country,” says Geoff.

He grew up on a hobby farm in the Winkler-Morden area and jokes his father-in-law had “a real farm.”

“A working farm we called it,” interjects Theresa.

Before taking up market gardening, the pair sold their Wolseley home, packed up four kids, and spent a year and a half in Ontario learning about that type of agriculture and organic dairy production.

“It was a pretty intense decision,” recalls Theresa.

Upon their return, they rented land in the Interlake before buying what is now Boundary Creek Farm near Winnipeg Beach. They were only the second farm in the province to start a CSA, in which consumers buy shares in the farm’s annual output and weekly vegetable deliveries during the growing season.

There’s now about 15 CSAs, but they’re not for everyone, says Theresa.

“There are people who love the CSA because they don’t have to go to a market or stand in line, and then there is the flip side of people who want to choose what they buy and where,” she says.

Cost and convenience are also factors. This spring, agroecology students at the University of Manitoba surveyed Interlake cottagers about their food purchases. The survey found most bring food from the city, but are open to buying local food from producers like the Dycks if it is available at weekend farmers’ markets — preferably open long into the afternoon — or easily accessible roadside stands.

More seasonal visitors buying local food could boost the fortunes of some Interlake farmers who have struggled with excess moisture in recent years, says student Curtis Brown, who plans to launch his own CSA in the future.

“It would be a farm that mimics natural systems.”

Boundary Creek, which produces eggs and a wide range of vegetables, has seen its customer base grow to more than 100 families. But most are located in Winnipeg.

“I would love to have more cottagers buying shares,” says Geoff. “If I didn’t have to drive into Winnipeg, it would be great.

A few years ago Boundary Creek offered a cottage share program, where people could sign up for the months of July and August only, but it required a lot of additional planning, without much uptake.

“I think the big issues with cottagers is that they might buy a farm pickup share, but the cottage season is really short,” says Theresa.

And in the scramble to pack up and get to the cottage, food often becomes the last detail families consider, adds Geoff.

“That’s were the farmers’ market has its place,” says Theresa. “They can come out bringing the basics and Saturday morning head to the market to get what’s fresh.”

Boundary Creek sends whatever vegetables are left over after filling its 70 CSA shares to the Gimli market, where one of their children usually runs their stall.

“They have picked up a lot of great skills there,” says Theresa.

And although they don’t know if any of their kids will follow in their footsteps, Geoff and Theresa say they don’t see their way of life changing anytime soon.

“I think this is a great time to get into farming,” says Geoff. “If you like to work, and be outdoors doing something different every day, this is for you.”

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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