Beets, radishes, squash, and spinach – a variety of produce is grown on 20 acres of land at Fraser Common Farm and its cooperative business Glorious Organics in Aldergrove.
But what was sets the pioneering farm apart, beyond its early role in the province’s organic sector, is the reliance on a group of dedicated people working together via a business model built on equality and environmental stewardship.
Susan Davidson, a farmer and resident of the collective since 1980, said the inaugural piece of land was originally purchased back in 1977.
She said the difficult moraine terrain and low wetlands make the space unsuitable for something more commonplace like blueberries, leading to the decision to grow select veggies.
In 1985, Glorious Organics began; a way to bring the Signature Celebration Salad to the table in an era Davidson said pre-cut salads were rare.
Unveiled at Expo ‘86, the product became the perfect ready-to-eat offering for high-end restaurants that began serving the product or using the veggies as a garnish.
In the early 1990s, a budding market saturated with more varied products from California made it tough to compete.
But Davidson said the farm was able to pivot, dissolving the original company in 2006 and beginning to operate as a cooperative that incorporates input and skills from a variety of farmers.
There’s 12 to 15 employees, including five original Glorious Organic members. Davidson said the key goal for everyone is to learn how to grow food in a more ecological way that benefits both the earth and its people.
“It’s a flat shape business model instead of a pyramid,” she noted. “We believe in a sharing economy.”
Fraser Common Farm is open to new members. Davidson explained that people would have to work full season with them first so they can assess if they’re a good fit.
While she described the past 15 months as a period of “crashing,” COVID-19 times have seen the cooperative pivot again to a model made up of farmers markets and Customer Supportive Agriculture (CSA).
“CSAs are like weekly subscriptions – boxes of vegetables that customers sign up and pay for,” she explained.
While a few high-end restaurants remain open for patio service, more and more permanent closures have made the farm’s future uncertain.
“It’s very sad what happening to the industry,” Davidson said. “But we’re holding our ground.”
Kids farm camps, and student and chef tours have all had to be cancelled during the pandemic as well as in person purchases.
“We’re very strict who can access the farm right now. There are rigorous protocols for people coming to collect shipments,” she said.
Ultimately, with the pandemic uncertainty, Davidson told the Aldergrove Star that she hopes for a healthy, fair planet.
“Our focus is truly on environmental sustainability, and we seem to have a long, long, long row to hoe,” Davidson said.
Reconciliation is also important to her and the members of the collective; all tours and programs begin with an unceded territory acknowledgement of the Kwantlen First Nation.
“Because of colonialism, there is an unwelcomed ownership. I am aware of the hypocrisy of land sales and don’t have any solutions,” she said. “But I am honoured to be a steward of the land.”
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