Connor Arsenault moved to Revelstoke in the spring and currently runs Bear Dude Farm near the Revelstoke Dam. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

New farmer joins the Revelstoke market scene

The farmer of Bear Dude Farm is one of less than 10 per cent of farmers in Canada under 35 years old

When Connor Arsenault arrived at his newly leased plot of land, north of Revelstoke, last spring it was barren.

“Nothing was growing here, just hard packed sandy ground,” he said.

Nevertheless, Arsenault laid fresh soil, tilled, planted seeds and called his new home Bear Dude Farm.

“There’s so much more diversity here now. I remember when I started digging, the only bugs I saw were these red ants. Now when I turn the soil with my shovel, so many bugs are crawling around.”

Arsenault points to a bumblebee inspecting his sunflowers. A nearby beetle walks across a leaf and a moth investigates the vegetable patch.

“I just can’t get enough of biodiversity and to be able to create this paradise for all of these animals is amazing,” he continues.

When Arsenault arrived in the spring, he said the land was barren. Now, it’s lush and lively. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review).

Earlier this year, Arsenault packed up his car and left Tofino, not knowing where he might settle. He thought maybe Canmore, Fernie, Rossland, Nelson, but eventually picked Revelstoke for the deciduous trees.

“In Tofino, the forest is amazing, so many ancient gigantic trees. But it didn’t feel like my home forest. And here does.”

He also loved the trains and Stoke FM.

“I was listening to Stoke FM as I pulled into Revelstoke from Nelson and it was like I was coming home.”

Arsenault’s farm has kale, corn, beets, chard, lettuce, potatoes, kohlrabi, tomatoes, peas, squash, zucchini and carrots.

“And a whole lot of flowers,” he said.

Arsenault went to the University of Guelph. While studying, he worked in some of the school’s trial gardens. Breeders would send seeds from flowers and Arsenault would grow the new breeds alongside flowers already on the market, for comparison.

Between vegetables there are red and white dahlias, pink cosmoses, sunflowers and others he has collected from seed, like echinacea from Victoria Street.

He’s even planted fireweed from up the road.

“It needs a place to live too,” he said while admiring its purple pinnacles.

Finding and using local seeds makes sense, he continues, because it’s already proven it can grow in Revelstoke.

Arsenault sells his produce at the Revelstoke Farmers’ Market. However, making profit is difficult. He has a second job serving to pay bills.

READ MORE: Love the Revelstoke markets? Visit the other 145 across the province

Regardless, Arsenault said it’s worth it.

“I feed myself amazing food and created this place for all these bees.”

According to Statistics Canada in 2016, less than 10 per cent of farmers are under 35-years-old. Canada has lost 70 per cent of the amount of farmers in the under-35 category in 25 years.

“I think there’s a stereotype of what a farmer is,” said Arsenault, who is 27-years-old.

The average age for farmers is 55.

When Arsenault arrived in the spring, he said the land was barren. Now, it’s lush and lively. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review).

Arsenault continued that accessing land is one of the largest obstacles for young farmers. According to data from Statistics Canada, B.C. is the third most expensive province per acre of farm land at $5,674. Ontario is the priciest at $11,358, and Quebec is second at $6,087. The cheapest is Saskatchewan at $1,454.

Although Arsenault is attached to his farm, he would like to move closer to downtown.

Ideally, he would like his farm to be educational and teach others how to grow and produce food.

READ MORE: ‘I’m a survivor’: 90-year-old gardener still growing strong

It’s all about connection with the earth, said Arsenault. Many people do not know where food comes from prior the grocery store. It’s important to know where food originates he said.

“When I’m walking around my garden and pick a carrot, I know I grew it from seed. I watched the rain fall on it. I was there with the sun shining on it.”

With a changing climate, Arsenault said food security is essential. What if the Lower Mainland gets hit by a tsunami? What if there’s a drought in the Okanagan?

“With a garden, you can weather the storm. Even if there is a drought, depending on the way you work the land, you can make it through.”


 

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liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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