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Q&A with Michael Ableman of Foxglove Farm

 :Foxglove Farm: Q&A with Michael Ableman of Foxglove Farm

Michael Ableman is a household name in the sustainable agriculture world. He’s the Founder of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a non-profit based in California, and the author of several critically acclaimed books like Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It.

He now has a farm on Salt Spring Island called Foxglove Farm and took a moment to dig into some good ‘ol farm talk.

What is the best way to “survive” as a small farm?

We have different fields throughout the farm that are at different successions, similar products that are planted at different stages. It’s easy to show up at the marketplace one week with something and then never be there with it again. The skill is in providing a body of products consistently – consistent quality but also consistently available throughout a long season – and that’s something that we know how to do.

What happens in the winter?

I wear a different hat in the winter. I’m on the road quite a bit, lecturing, and every so often write a book. We were in California for many years – and it was year round production, but we’re happy to stop here in November and pick it up again in March. I take advantage of that time to catch up on other things.

Do you run a program in Vancouver, too?

Our work in Vancouver is a charity called Cultivate Canada, and we run a fairly well-known project there called SOLE food, which is now probably one of the largest urban agriculture production social enterprises in North America.

Do you follow organic farming methods?

We do, but we don’t make a big deal about our organic production. I’ve certainly been a long-term practitioner of organic methodologies for almost 40 years, but I’m bothered and concerned by the fixation on that as the primary goal, because we need to go well beyond the narrower thinking around organic and be thinking about broader systems.

How can we support farmers?

It’s all about the relationships. It’s not the job of one and a half percent of the population to provide the fundamental nourishment for the rest, that’s everybody’s responsibility to some degree. In other words, the responsibility of food and of healthy soil is everybody’s responsibility, not just the farmers.

What can regular consumers do to be involved in local farming?

Develop a relationship with a farmer, go to farmers markets, grow some of your own salad greens or herbs, join a CSA program, start spending more time around food and how it’s procured, prepared, have some chickens and rabbits in the backyard.

For the first time in quite awhile, it’s actually acceptable and even hip to be doing these things. It wasn’t 15 or 20 years ago. I was farming in California and being threatened with jail time over our roosters and production of compost by the local authorities. So things are improving in a lot of ways.

But I’m not interested in telling anybody how they should live their lives. People will start to figure it out for themselves. A pleasure is a far greater motivator for change than guilt will ever be.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Check out more from Michael & Foxglove Farm in this beautiful video:

-
Foxglove Farm 
1200 Mount Maxwell Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2H7
877.553.5772
 

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